island nation in the Pacific, formerly Gilbert Islands
and named for Capt. Thomas Gilbert
, who arrived there 1788 after helping transport the first shipload of convicts to Australia. At independence in 1979 it took the current name, which represents the local pronunciation of Gilbert
. Christmas Island
, named for the date it was discovered by Europeans, is in the chain and now goes by Kiritimati
, likewise a local pronunciation of the English name.