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Manhattan. A borough of New York City in southeast New York, mainly on Manhattan Island at the north end of New York Bay. Peter Minuit of the Dutch West Indies Company bought the island in 1626 from the Manhattan Indians, supposedly for $24 worth of merchandise. The settlement of New Amsterdam, renamed New York when the English assumed control in 1664, quickly spread from the southern tip of the island, eventually becoming the financial and commercial center of the United States.