The island is named after Zakynthos, the son of a legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus. The name, like all similar names ending in -nthos, is pre-Mycenaean or Pelasgian in origin. Zakynthos has a thriving tourism industry.
The mild, Mediterranean climate and the plentiful winter rainfall endow the island with dense vegetation. The principal products are olive oil, currants, grapes and citrus fruit.
The capital, which has the same name as the prefecture, is the town of Zakynthos; apart from the official name, it is also called Chora (i.e. the Town, a common denomination in Greece when the name of the island itself is the same as the name of the principal town). According to the 2001 census, the island has a population of 38,957.
Among the most famous Zakynthians is the 19th century poet Dionysios Solomos, the principal modern Greek poet and author of the national anthem of Greece. His statue adorns the main town square. Also the explorer Juan de Fuca (Ioannis Focas) and the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo were born here.