acrop·​o·​lis ə-ˈkrä-pə-ləs How to pronounce acropolis (audio)
: the upper fortified part of an ancient Greek city (such as Athens)
also : a usually fortified height of a city or district elsewhere (as in Central America)

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The Greek root acro- means "high;" thus, an acropolis is basically a "high city". Ancient cities often grew up around a high point, in order that they could easily be defended. The Greeks and Romans usually included in their acropolises temples to the city's most important gods; so, for example, Athens built a great temple on its Acropolis to its protector goddess, Athena, from which the city took its name. Many later European cities cluster around a walled castle on a height, into which the population of the city and the surrounding area could retreat in case of attack, and even South American cities often contain a similar walled area on high ground.

Examples of acropolis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Visit the archaeological sites of the Temple of Hera on Samos, the acropolis on Thassos, the ancient city of Ifestia on Lemnos, and the magnificent castle atop Lesvos. Eleni N. Gage, Travel + Leisure, 1 Apr. 2024 Schliemann poked around this acropolis in the mid-nineteenth century, and many archeologists have followed him. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 The goal is not just to fill the calendar but also to animate the space and complete the multi-decade transformation of Lincoln Center from a high-art acropolis of white travertine and dark suits into a round-the-clock gathering spot for people of all ages, income levels, and tastes. Curbed, 20 Apr. 2022 Silhouetted against a blue backdrop, nearly 400 feet above the village of Lindos, the acropolis offers astonishing views of St. Paul's Bay and the vast Aegean Sea. Nick Kontis, USA TODAY, 4 Mar. 2023 The trouble began on Yom Kippur, when a Jewish man engaged in prayer on the city’s 37-acre ancient acropolis that Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary, or Haram al-Sharif. Andrew Lawler, Time, 3 Nov. 2021 And in the town of Lindos, there's an ancient Greek acropolis at the top of the hill, a medieval village in the middle, and a modern town on the beach at the bottom. Eleni N. Gage, Travel + Leisure, 27 July 2021 Thirty-three suites, each with private patio, decorated in cool and soothing earth tones, with furniture made by local carpenters, offer shelter from the sun, with views of nearby hills — including one topped by a Mycenaean acropolis. Travel + Leisure Staff, Travel + Leisure, 19 Feb. 2020 The acropolis of Glas, with its three-kilometer (1.9-mile) fortification walls, is the biggest of its era in Greece. Washington Post, 8 Nov. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'acropolis.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Greek akrópolis, from akro- acro- + pólis "city, body of citizens" — more at police entry 1

First Known Use

1570, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of acropolis was in 1570

Dictionary Entries Near acropolis

Cite this Entry

“Acropolis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


acrop·​o·​lis ə-ˈkräp-ə-ləs How to pronounce acropolis (audio)
: the upper fortified part of an ancient Greek city

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