The territory consists of two atolls and 27 coral islands, of which two, West Island and Home Island, are inhabited with a total population of approximately 600.
The islands have been called the Cocos Islands (from 1622), the Keeling Islands (from 1703), the Cocos–Keeling Islands (since James Horsburgh in 1805) and the Keeling–Cocos Islands (19th century).
Cocos refers to the abundant coconut trees, while Keeling is William Keeling, reputedly the first European to sight the islands, in 1609.
John Clunies-Ross, who sailed there in the Borneo in 1825, called the group the Borneo Coral Isles, restricting Keeling to North Keeling, and calling South Keeling "the Cocos properly so called".
The form Cocos (Keeling) Islands, attested from 1916, was made official by the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955.
There are no rivers or lakes on either atoll. Fresh water resources are limited to water lenses on the larger islands, underground accumulations of rainwater lying above the seawater.
These lenses are accessed through shallow bores or wells.
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