Why is it Called Trinidad and Tobago?

(Last Updated On: January 9, 2018)

Why is it Called Trinidad and Tobago?
Located off the coast of Venezuela, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a small island country in the West Indies. The nation is made up of several small islands, but gets its name from two main islands – yes, you guessed them – Trinidad and Tobago.

Where do these names come from, you ask? Why is it called Trinidad and Tobago? Worry not, we’ve got some answers.

Twin Island Nation

Forming the two-southernmost links in a chain of Caribbean islands in South America, Trinidad is the larger of the two main islands, and is just over 11 kilometers from Venezuela. Separated by the Gulf of Paria, Tobago is a smaller island located almost 30 kilometers to the northeast of Trinidad.

Both are known for their amazing surfing, great beach vacation spots, and delicious South American cuisine. Many people choose these islands as their tropical holiday destination, opting to stay away from the more popular alternatives such as Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The joint island nation achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, becoming a member of the United Nations that same year. It is known as a twin island republic, similar to that of St. Kitts and Nevis, or Antigua and Barbuda.


The history of this joint island nation however, dates back far before the days of independence and UN membership. In fact, it starts in the era of Christopher Columbus and his original explorer days, when he discovered the larger island in 1498. A Catholic explorer with active religious views, he named the island Trinidad, which scholars believe was a nod to the Holy Trinity.

The Spanish later settled the island in 1577. They established the Port of Spain, a port used for ship access to the island, and later as a container port within the Caribbean.


With time however, residents began to become more aware of the neighboring smaller island, and noticed that the native population there grew an abundance of tobacco. Speculation is that residents of Trinidad started calling the other island Tobago in response to this tobacco abundance, and the name soon stuck.

The English settled Tobago in 1616, and then in the 1880s, a British commission linked Trinidad, Tobago, and the neighboring islands, formally denoting the landmasses as a joint island nation – the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

So, whether you are dreaming of your next tropical holiday or just doing some research on the Caribbean islands, your new knowledge of Trinidad and Tobago will surely come in handy. Next time someone asks “why is it Called Trinidad and Tobago?” – you’ll be ready with the answer.

Think you know your Caribbean Islands? Test your knowledge here, and make sure to check out Sporcle’s thousands of

About the Author:

Website | + posts