- an island country off the SE coast of India; population 21,324,800 (est. 2009); languages, Sinhalese (official), Tamil; capital, Colombo. Former name (until 1972) Ceylon.
The island was ruled by a strong native dynasty from the 12th century but was successively dominated by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British from the 16th century and finally annexed by the British in 1815. A Commonwealth state from 1948, the country became an independent republic in 1972. Since 1981 there has been fighting between government forces and Tamil separatist guerrillas