Belize ( i/bəˈliːz/), formerly British Honduras, is an independent country on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. Its mainland is about 290 km (180 mi) long and 110 km (68 mi) wide.
Belize has an area of 22,966 square kilometers (8,867 sq mi) and a population of 368,310 (2015). It has the lowest population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year (2015) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
Belize's abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history. English is the official language of Belize, with Belizean Kriol being the unofficial language. Over half the population is multilingual, with Spanish being the second most common spoken language.
Belize is considered a Central American and Caribbean nation with strong ties to both the Latin American and Caribbean regions. It is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Central American Integration System (SICA), the only country to hold full membership in all three regional organizations. Belize is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state.
The origin of the name "Belize" remains unclear.
The earliest known record of the name appears in the journal of the Dominican priest Fray José Delgado, dating to 1677. Delgado recorded the names of three major rivers that he crossed while travelling north along the Caribbean coast: Rio Soyte, Rio Xibum, and Rio Balis. The names of these waterways, which correspond to the Sittee River, Sibun River and Belize River, were provided to Delgado by his translator. It is likely that Delgado's "Balis" was actually the Mayan word belix (or beliz), meaning "muddy-watered".
Others have suggested that the name derives from a Spanish pronunciation of the name of the Scottish buccaneer Peter Wallace, who established a settlement at the mouth of the Belize River in 1638.There is no proof that Wallace settled in this area and some scholars have characterized this claim as a myth. Writers and historians have suggested several other possible etymologies, including postulated French and African origins.