Differences Between Caribs Vs Arawaks

Last Updated on March 19, 2022 by QCity Editorial Stuff

The Arawaks and Caribs are two indigenous groups of the West Indies. The Arawaks were generally peaceful, while the Caribs were known for their more aggressive behavior. The first Europeans to land in the Caribbean islands were Columbus and his crew who landed on an island they called “San Salvador.” They met with friendly natives who gave them food, but this wasn’t always the case as Columbus also encountered violent resistance by some of these natives when he returned to explore other parts of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti). There is some evidence that Columbus mistook the Caribs for Indians because they had gold jewelry which was common among people living near India at that time.

On the Caribbean island of Trinidad, two different indigenous peoples have lived on the island for centuries. The Caribs and Arawaks are both descendants of South American tribes. One difference is that the Arawaks were peaceful people who had a connection to nature while Caribs were more warlike and became notorious slavers in history. 

Despite these differences, they both have very similar cultures with each group being passionate about music, dance, art, and cooking. Sadly, many of their traditions have been lost over time due to colonization by Europeans which would create an even bigger divide between them today if it weren’t for efforts such as those made by the Cultural Institute of Trinidad and Tobago Arawaks/Caribs.

Comparison between Caribs and Arawaks

Parameters of ComparisonCaribsArawaks
DominantCaribs are dominant in Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Colombia, Venezuela, and Trinidad & TobagoArawaks are dominant in Belize, Jamaica, and Haiti
LanguageThe languages spoken by Caribs include Garifuna (a mixture of Spanish with African languages)Javanese Creole or Patois among other dialects whereas the language is spoken by Arawaks is English
ReligionCaribs were originally animists but now they have mixed beliefs from ChristianityThe religion followed by the Arawak people is Christianity
IntermarriageThere has been a lot of intermarriage between Caribs and Africans which has led to an increase in their populationThere was no significant mixing between them leading to a decrease in their population size

What are Caribs?

The word “Carib” has been used to describe various groups of people, including the Caribbean islands and the Carib people. The term is believed to have originated from the Spanish word “carioquí,” which means “degenerate.” However, its precise meaning is not entirely clear. What is known, however, is that the Caribs were fierce and warlike people who inhabited parts of South America and the Caribbean islands. They were feared by many other Native American groups and European colonists for their skills in battle and warrior culture.

The term Caribs are often used to describe a variety of indigenous peoples who inhabit the Caribbean region. The word Caribs are derived from the Spanish name for these people, Caribes. While many different groups identify as Caribs, they share certain common cultural characteristics. Most importantly, all Carib peoples have a strong sense of identity and community. They also tend to be skilled hunters and fishermen. This has allowed them to thrive in the harsh environment of the Caribbean islands. Despite their marginalization by dominant societies, the Caribs have managed to preserve their culture and traditions.

Differences Between Caribs Vs Arawaks

What is Arawaks?

The Arawaks were a group of indigenous people who lived in the Caribbean and South America. They used to be one of the most powerful tribes on earth, but their population had decreased due to diseases and European conquest. Today, there are still many descendants of the Arawaks living on islands like Trinidad and Tobago. 

The word “Arawak” means “man.” The name was given by Columbus when he found these natives in modern-day Haiti because they reminded him of Native Americans called Iroquois or Hurons that he had seen before. There is also an alternate theory which states that at some point during early development, there could have been two groups with different languages speaking similar dialects, but this has not been proven.

Differences Between Caribs Vs Arawaks

10 Differences Between Caribs and Arawaks

1. Caribs are a group of indigenous people from the Lesser Antilles.

2. The Carib language is spoken by about 60,000 people in Central America and South America.

3. Arawaks have been part of the Caribbean for over 5,000 years.

4. Their descendants live in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Belize.

5. They speak an Arawakan language that belongs to the larger family known as the Cariban languages.

6. Caribs were skilled warriors who fought against European settlers with spears and bows.

7. Caribs are the indigenous people of the Caribbean, while Arawaks are found in South America.

8. The Carib language is spoken by 1 million people today, while Arawak languages only have about 20 speakers left.

9. The Caribs were not as advanced as the Arawaks because they didn’t create pottery or start farming until European contact.

10. Today there are more than 200 tribes of Caribs that live throughout Central and South America.

Interesting Statistics or Facts of Caribs

1. Caribs are the second largest ethnic group in Trinidad and Tobago.

2. The word “Carib” is derived from a Spanish term for people who live near the Caribbean Sea.

3. Caribs make up about 8% of Trinidad’s population, but they comprise more than half of all citizens living in Tobago. 

4. Carib Indians are descendants of Arawakan speakers from South America, who migrated to the islands around 1200 AD.

5. To this day, there are still many words in use among Carrib languages that have no equivalents in other Indian languages.

6. The first Europeans to come into contact with these indigenous people were Spanish explorers led by Christopher Columbus.

Interesting Statistics or Facts of Arawaks

1. The Arawaks were the first people to inhabit the Caribbean.

2. They had a complex society that was based on trade and agriculture.

3. Their language is one of the oldest in North America, dating back to 500 BC.

4. The Arawaks are believed to have been wiped out by European diseases such as smallpox. 

5. There is no evidence of what happened to them after Columbus arrived in 1492.

6. they may have evolved into other indigenous groups like the Tainos or Caribs.


Caribs and Arawaks are the two major indigenous groups of people in South America. The term “Carib” is thought to come from either an Arawakan word meaning “man-eater,” or a Taino (pre-Columbian Caribbean) word, caribe, which means “cannibal.” While many tribes shared these same practices among them both, it was the Caribs that became known for their cannibalism due to this practice being so prevalent with them. Today’s descendants of these tribes can be found throughout Central American countries like Belize and Guatemala.


Resource 01: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/carib-skulls-boost-credibility-of-columbus-cannibal-claims/
Resource 02: https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/pre-colonial-history/arawak-indigenous-caribbeans/

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