Buccaneers, adventurers who raided Spanish ships and colonies, mainly in the Caribbean region, during the 17th century. Most were not pirates but privateers, operating with either open or secret governmental approval. (For a comparison of privateering and piracy, The majority were English or French.

The buccaneers had their origin in a group of outcasts who lived on wild cattle and pigs on the island of Hispaniola early in the 17th century. (Their name came from the word boucan , which in the Caribbean referred to a frame used to dry meat.) In 1630 they moved to nearby Tortuga. At that time, Spain held most of the islands and coasts of the Caribbean and tried to keep out other nations. The Spanish attacked Tortuga in 1635, forcing the buccaneers to move to other islands.

With English and French approval, the buccaneers raided Spanish treasure ships and settlements. They lived under their own code of laws, dividing their plunder according to fixed rules. By the time their activities were curtailed about 1700, the buccaneers had broken Spain's hold on the Caribbean.

The most noted buccaneer was Sir Henry Morgan.