why are the islands off Florida called "keys"??

18 Answers

  • G
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    A cay (also spelled key, but both are pronounced alike as "key") is a small, low island consisting mostly of sand or coral. The word is used almost exclusively in the Caribbean, though it is sometimes used in the context of other tropical environments, such as the Great Barrier Reef and especially in the Florida Keys.

  • 3 years ago

    Key Islands

  • 1 decade ago

    From a website:

    One contemporary chronicler of explorer Ponce de Leon, observing the chain of islands on the horizon, said they appeared as men who were suffering; hence they were given the name Los Martires or "the martyrs." No one knows exactly when the first European set foot on one of the Keys, but as exploration and shipping increased, the islands became prominent on nautical maps. The nearby treacherous coral reefs claimed many actual seafaring "martyrs" from the time of early recorded history. The chain was eventually called "keys", also attributed to the Spanish, from cayos, meaning "small islands".

  • Louis
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

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    I know! I know! I just don't know how to spell it. The original name of Key West was Cayo Oueso - "bone island" (it's like a reef) . That was Americanized into Key West. This word I can't spell - Cayo - I believe was Spanish.

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  • 1 decade ago

    It's an Anglicization of the Spanish word "cayo," meaning a small island. And "Key West" is actually a misinterpretation of "Cayo Hueso," or Bone Island.

    Amazingly, that name pre-dated its popularity as a spring break destination...

  • 4 years ago

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  • 1 decade ago

    The small islands off Florida are called keys, from the Spanish word cayo. It means “rock” or “islet.”

  • 4 years ago

    Todd T is correct. "Cayo" in Spanish became "key" and "hueso" (bone) was translated as "West" perhaps because of the similar pronunciation. Some of the other Florida's keys have kept their Spanish name: Key Largo (long) - Islamorada (purple island). .

  • zen
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Cay \Cay\, n.

    See Key, a ledge.

    [1913 Webster]

    WordNet (r) 2.0 [wn]


    n : a coral reef off the southern coast of Florida [syn: key,

    Florida keys]

    Moby Thesaurus II by Grady Ward, 1.0 [moby-thes]

    20 Moby Thesaurus words for "cay":

    ait, archipelago, atoll, bar, continental island, coral head,

    coral island, coral reef, holm, insularity, island, island group,

    islandology, isle, islet, key, oceanic island, reef, sandbank,


  • 1 decade ago

    It comes from the Spanish: Cayo = small island.

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