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from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • A group of islands of the northeast West Indies east of Puerto Rico. They are divided politically into the British Virgin Islands to the northeast and the Virgin Islands of the United States to the southwest. The islands were first sighted and named by Christopher Columbus in 1493.
  • A United States territory constituting the southwest group of the Virgin Islands. The islands were purchased from the Danish in 1917 because of their strategic location at the approach to the Panama Canal. Charlotte Amalie, on St. Thomas Island, is the capital. Population: 108,000.


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