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

Keep scrolling for more

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 migration that brought Polynesians and later groups to the archipelago has helped diversify Hawaiian cuisine. National Geographic, "Gordon Ramsay Journeys Along Hawaii’s Hana Coast," 2 July 2019 Independent election observers have confirmed some polling irregularities across the archipelago nation of more than 260 million people, but no widespread fraud of the kind Mr. Subianto alleged. Ben Otto And I Made Sentana, WSJ, "Indonesian Court Upholds Widodo’s Election Win," 27 June 2019 Winds which reverse with the seasons shaped a maritime world stretching from the Strait of Hormuz in the north-west to the island archipelagoes of South-East Asia, from Madagascar in the south-west to Japan. The Economist, "The South Asian monsoon, past, present and future," 27 June 2019 Kenyan judges at the National Environmental Tribunal on Tuesday (June 25) said officials had failed to conduct a thorough assessment of the plant’s impact on Lamu, a historic and idyllic archipelago in the country’s northeast. Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Africa, "China’s plan to help build Kenya’s first coal plant has been stopped—for now," 27 June 2019 The Indian Ocean archipelago nation had its first multiparty election in 2008, with Nasheed defeating 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Bharatha Mallawarachi, The Seattle Times, "Maldives opposition leader: Gov’t may rig next month’s poll," 27 Aug. 2018 Indonesia is a far-flung archipelago of 17,000 islands; its central government has often been accused of neglecting remote regions far from the center of political and economic power in Java. Washington Post, "When disaster hits, Indonesia’s Islamists are first to help," 12 June 2019 Now imagine that there is an archipelago with a large island that can support a population of thousands of individuals of a species. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories’," 7 Sep. 2018 The smallest and least-known of the Balearic Islands, popular among nudists and back-to-nature types, Formentera is the archipelago’s last major frontier for tourism. Benjamin Kemper, Condé Nast Traveler, "Spain’s Secret Islands," 14 Feb. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about archipelago

Listen to Our Podcast about archipelago

Statistics for archipelago

Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for archipelago

The first known use of archipelago was in 1589

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on archipelago

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with archipelago

Spanish Central: Translation of archipelago

Nglish: Translation of archipelago for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on archipelago

What made you want to look up archipelago? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to form ideas or theories about something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!