ar·​chi·​pel·​a·​go | \ ˌär-kə-ˈpe-lə-ˌgō How to pronounce archipelago (audio) , ˌär-chə- \
plural archipelagoes or archipelagos

Definition of archipelago

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 an archipelago of small parks within the city

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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."

Examples of archipelago in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The government approved funding to evacuate four of the 300 islands that are a part of the Guna Yala archipelago for reasons that include flooding in the Cartí River, vulnerability to extreme weather conditions, and overpopulation. Lauryn Hill, Wired, "After Us the Deluge Captures Images of a Sinking World," 22 Apr. 2021 The casket was scheduled to fly to Paris out of John F. Kennedy International Airport the following day, and, later, from Paris to Nouméa, the capital of the French archipelago in the South Pacific. Meg Bernhard, The New Yorker, "The Long Trip Home," 11 Apr. 2021 No deaths or injuries have been reported, but authorities advised residents to evacuate the northern part of the island, home to some 16,000 people on the biggest island in the archipelago. David Bressan, Forbes, "Eruption Of La Soufrière Volcano Prompts Evacuation Of Caribbean Island," 9 Apr. 2021 Americans have been free to visit the more than 150 private-island resorts in the archipelago since July. Katie Lockhart, Travel + Leisure, "4 Things to Know Before Your First Trip to the Maldives," 12 Mar. 2021 Some other islands in the archipelago have their own whistling languages, but their use has faded, though another island, El Hierro, recently began teaching its version. New York Times, "‘Special and Beautiful’ Whistled Language Echoes Around This Island," 18 Feb. 2021 The study, published last month in the journal Ecology & Evolution, found that the turbines with one black blade killed 71.9 percent fewer birds than standard turbines on the same wind farm in the Norwegian archipelago of Smøla. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Painting Wind Turbine Blades Black Help Birds Avoid Deadly Collisions," 27 Aug. 2020 The Kodiak archipelago is featured at a virtual Marine Science Symposium set for April 19-22. Anchorage Daily News, "Seafarers union looks to Alaska as it seeks hundreds of apprentice workers on contracted vessels," 13 Apr. 2021 The Indonesians themselves were as multicultural as their archipelago nation: There were Dayaks—who are indigenous to Borneo—and Indonesians from Java, and Melayus. Wudan Yan, The Atlantic, "The Pandemic Is Undoing Field Researchers’ Oldest Assumption," 7 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'archipelago.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of archipelago

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for archipelago

Archipelago Aegean Sea, from Italian Arcipelago, literally, chief sea, from arci- (from Latin archi-) + Greek pelagos sea — more at plagal

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Time Traveler for archipelago

Time Traveler

The first known use of archipelago was in 1589

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Statistics for archipelago

Last Updated

4 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Archipelago.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for archipelago



English Language Learners Definition of archipelago

: a group of islands


ar·​chi·​pel·​a·​go | \ ˌär-kə-ˈpe-lə-ˌgō How to pronounce archipelago (audio) , ˌär-chə- \
plural archipelagoes or archipelagos

Kids Definition of archipelago

: a group of islands

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More from Merriam-Webster on archipelago

Nglish: Translation of archipelago for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of archipelago for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about archipelago

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