The name "Barbados" is from either the Portuguese term Os Barbados or the Spanish equivalent, Los Barbados, both meaning "the bearded ones". It is unclear whether "bearded" refers to the long, hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree (Ficus citrifolia), indigenous to the island, or to the allegedly bearded Caribs who once inhabited the island, or, more fancifully, to a visual impression of a beard formed by the sea foam that sprays over the outlying reefs. In 1519, a map produced by the Genoese mapmaker Visconte Maggiolo showed and named Barbados in its correct position. Furthermore, the island of Barbuda in the Leewards is very similar in name and was once named "Las Barbudas" by the Spanish.
It is uncertain which European nation arrived first in Barbados. One lesser-known source points to earlier revealed works predating contemporary sources indicating it could have been the Spanish. Many if not most believe the Portuguese, en route to Brazil, were the first Europeans to come upon the island.
The original name for Barbados in the Pre-Columbian era was Ichirouganaim, according to accounts by descendants of the indigenous Arawakan-speaking tribes in other regional areas, with possible translations including "Red land with white teeth" or "Redstone island with teeth outside (reefs)" or simply "Teeth".
Colloquially, Barbadians refer to their home island as "Bim" or other nicknames associated with Barbados, including "Bimshire". The origin is uncertain, but several theories exist. The National Cultural Foundation of Barbados says that "Bim" was a word commonly used by slaves, and that it derives from the Igbo term bém from bé mụ́ meaning 'my home, kindred, kind', the Igbo phoneme [e] in the Igbo orthography is very close to /. The name could have arisen due to the relatively large percentage of enslaved Igbo people from modern-day southeastern Nigeria arriving in Barbados in the 18th century.
The words 'Bim' and 'Bimshire' are recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary and Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionaries. Another possible source for 'Bim' is reported to be in the Agricultural Reporter of 25 April 1868, where the Rev. N. Greenidge (father of one of the island's most famous scholars, Abel Hendy Jones Greenidge) suggested the listing of Bimshire as a county of England. Expressly named were "Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire and Bimshire". Lastly, in the Daily Argosy (of Demerara, i.e. Guyana) of 1652, there is a reference to Bim as a possible corruption of 'Byam', the name of a Royalist leader against the Parliamentarians. That source suggested the followers of Byam became known as 'Bims' and that this became a word for all Barbadians.