The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece. They are traditionally called "Eptanisa", i.e. "the Seven Islands", but the group includes many smaller islands as well as the seven principal ones. The seven are, from north to south:
- Kerkyra usually known as Corfu in English
- Paxi also known as Paxos in English
- Lefkada also known as Lefkas in English
- Ithaki usually known as Ithaca in English
- Kefallonia often known as Kefalonia/Cephalonia/Kefallinia in English
- Zakynthos sometimes known as Zante in English
- Kythira sometimes known as Cerigo in English
The six northern islands are off the west coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea. The seventh island, Kythira, is off the southern tip of the Peloponnesus, the southern part of the Greek mainland. It should be noted that Kythira is not part of the periphery of Ionian Islands (Ionioi Nisoi), as it is included in the periphery of Attiki.
Latin transliteration, as well as Modern Greek pronunciation, may suggest that the Ionian Sea and Islands are somehow related to Ionia, an Anatolian region; in fact the Ionian Sea and Ionian Islands are spelt in Greek with an omicron, whereas Ionia has an omega (Ω). In Modern Greek this is purely a spelling distinction, but the different pronunciations in Ancient Greek would have eliminated the risk of confusion between the two areas. Furthermore in both Ancient Greek and Modern Greek, the Ionian is accented in the antepenult (i-O-nia) whereas Ionia in the penult (ion-I-a); also the proper adjective for Ionia is Ionic, not Ionian.
The islands themselves are known by a rather confusing variety of names. During the centuries of rule by Venice, they acquired Venetian names, by which some of them are still known in English (and in Italian). Kerkyra was known as Corfù, Ithaki as Val di Compare, Kythera as Cerigo, Lefkada as Santa Maura and Zakynthos as Zante.
A variety of spellings are used for the Greek names of the islands, particularly in historical writing. Kefallonia is often spelled as Cephallenia or Cephalonia, Ithaki as Ithaca, Kerkyra as Corcyra, Kythera as Cythera, Lefkada as Leucas or Leucada and Zakynthos as Zacynthus or Zante. Older or variant Greek forms are sometimes also used: Kefallinia for Kefallonia and Paxos or Paxoi for Paxi.