The word Caribbean likely conjures up images of tropical beaches and picture-perfect water. But it may also be a bit confusing how to pronounce the word. Many people pronounce it cuh-RIB-bee-an, with the primary stress on the second syllable. However, others pronounce it care-ib-bee-an, with the primary emphasis on the third syllable. Both pronunciations are acceptable.
The Caribbean is a region of more than 7,000 islands and cays, located to the south of Central America and north of South America. It has a rich history of European colonialism, with countries like England, the Netherlands, and France controlling parts of the area for centuries.
Despite the largely positive aspects of this history, the area has long been plagued by problems such as poverty, drug trafficking, and racial inequality. In the 20th century, most of these former British and Dutch colonies gained their independence. Today, the majority of Caribbean nations identify as Black or African American. There are six major languages in the Caribbean, including Spanish, English, French, and Dutch, as well as two native creoles—Haitian Creole and Papiamento.
To help determine which way to pronounce Caribbean, a good strategy is to listen to native speakers and see how they pronounce the word. But that can be difficult if you don’t know anyone who lives in the Caribbean. Another option is to watch an episode or movie in which the characters use the word. Then, repeat back what they’re saying out loud to see how it sounds.