1 : an expanse of water with many scattered islands
2 : a group of islands
3 : something resembling an archipelago; especially : a group or scattering of similar things
"Both attacks took place in the Lamu archipelago, a string of white-sand islands that are the first significant settlement south of the Somali border, and one of Kenya’s major tourist draws." -- From an article by Mike Pflanz in the Christian Science Monitor, October 3, 2011
"The only hint of the storm the night before was an archipelago of puddles and ponds sparkling in the bright morning sunlight." -- From Les Alldredge's 2011 book Do No Evil
Did You Know?
The Greeks called it the "Aegean Pelagos" and the Italians referred to it as "Arcipelago" (principal sea), but English speakers now call it the Aegean Sea. Numerous islands dot its expanse, and 17th-century English speakers adopted a modified form of its Italian name for any sea with a similar scattering of islands. By the 19th century "archipelago" had come to refer to the groups of islands themselves, and now it is often used figuratively, as in, for example, "an archipelago of high rises."
Test Your Memory
Which of the following words has something to do with small, parasitic insects: "Cockaigne," "hendiadys," or "pediculous"? The answer is ...