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It is the most populated and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities in the country.

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The etymology of the name "al-Andalus" has traditionally been derived from the name of the Vandals; however, a number of proposals since the 1980s have challenged this contention.Halm in 1989 derived the name from a Gothic term, *landahlauts, The region's history and culture have been influenced by the native Iberians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Byzantines, Jews, Romani, Muslim Moors and the Castilian and other Christian North Iberian nationalities who reconquered and settled the area in the latter phases of the Reconquista.The white symbolized pardon in the Almohad dynasty, interpreted in European heraldry as parliament or peace.Other writers have justified the colors differently, with some Andalusian nationalists referring to them as the Arbonaida, meaning white-and-green in Mozarabic, a Romance language that was spoken in the region in Muslim times.Andalusia is in the south of the Iberian peninsula, in south-western Europe, immediately south of the autonomous communities of Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha; west of the autonomous community of Murcia and the Mediterranean Sea; east of Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean; and north of the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar.

Andalusia is the only European region with both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines.

The small British overseas territory of Gibraltar shares a three-quarter-mile land border with the Andalusian province of Cádiz at the eastern end of the Strait of Gibraltar.

The main mountain ranges of Andalusia are the Sierra Morena and the Baetic System, consisting of the Subbaetic and Penibaetic Mountains, separated by the Intrabaetic Basin.

Initially, the term referred exclusively to territories under Muslim control; later, it was applied to some of the last Iberian territories to be regained from the Muslims, though not always to exactly the same ones.

In the Estoria de España (also known as the Primera Crónica General) of Alfonso X of Castile, written in the second half of the 13th century, the term Andalucía is used with three different meanings: due, above all, to its emblematic character as the last territory regained, and as the seat of the important Real Chancillería de Granada, a court of last resort.

The etymology of al-Andalus is itself somewhat debated (see al-Andalus), but in fact it entered the Arabic language before this area came under Muslim rule.