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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web 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 The big pavilion stands apart from the rest of the Clinic campus on a low rise amid lawns and additional rows of trees like a Greek temple on an acropolis. Steven Litt,, 14 July 2019 Temple of Sibilla Built in the second century B.C., this rectangular ancient Roman temple is located on the acropolis of Tivoli near the Temple of Vesta. Laura Itzkowitz, Condé Nast Traveler, 5 Mar. 2018 Just admire it while exploring the acropolis overlooking Villa Gregoriana. Laura Itzkowitz, Condé Nast Traveler, 5 Mar. 2018 See More

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 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on acropolis

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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