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The Carib are originally indigenous people from South America. They spoke the Arawak language and are believed to have left the Orinoco jungles of Venezuela to settle in the Caribbean. Later on, on arriving on the shores of the Caribbean Islands in the 16th century the Europeans found them aggressive and practises of cannibalism were found among them. They used to inhabit various Caribbean islands but were later pushed out by European colonist and were able to retain only two islands Dominica and Saint Vincent. By their unwillingness to surrender they delayed the settlement of Dominica by Europeans, where a few thousand of them still remain.

Some common words in use in English were borrowed from the Carib language, such as "hammock," "iguana," and "maize."

The word "cannibalism" is derived from Caniba, another name for the Carib, although through a different process than word-borrowing. Although some Native Americans have practiced cannibalism (as have some Europeans), Christopher Columbus's characterization of the Carib as eaters of human flesh more likely reflected his desire to represent them as savages; in 1503 Queen Isabella ruled that only cannibals could be taken as slaves legally, which encouraged Europeans to identify various Native American groups as cannibals.

The Carib were at the time of European discovery aggressively advancing against the Taíno, who lived in the northern Caribbean.