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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The Greeks called it the Aegean Pelagos and the Italians referred to it as Arcipelago (meaning "chief sea"), but English speakers now call it the Aegean Sea. Numerous islands dot its expanse, and 16th-century English speakers adopted a modified form of its Italian name for any sea with a similar scattering of islands. In time, archipelago came to refer to the groups of islands themselves, and now it is often used figuratively, as in, for example, "an archipelago of high-rise buildings."

Examples of archipelago in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Aside from the presidency, more than 18,000 government posts were on the ballot, including half of the 24-member Senate, more than 300 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as provincial and local offices across the archipelago. Jim Gomez, ajc, 10 May 2022 There are more than 200 different events occurring across the archipelago from April 17th to 23rd, with potential opportunities ranging from beach cleanups to blood donation to animal shelter volunteering. Jared Ranahan, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 One of Fidalgo’s crown jewels is 220-acre Washington Park, which looks out on the San Juan archipelago. Washington Post, 27 Apr. 2022 Indonesia frequently experiences earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, with 130 active volcanoes dotting the archipelago. David Bressan, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 One of several subspecies of leopard, the Zanzibar leopard made its home on the Zanzibar archipelago of Tanzania. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, 21 Apr. 2022 Australia outsources this work to a string of island nations sometimes described as its gulag archipelago. New York Times, 17 Apr. 2022 Due to the archipelago’s distinctive ecosystems, which include endemic flora and fauna, the entire area has been designated a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, and recreational activity is controlled in many areas. Alex Ulam, WSJ, 15 Apr. 2022 Megi, which was downgraded to a tropical depression on Monday, was the first storm to hit the archipelago this year. Akanksha Sharma, CNN, 14 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of archipelago was in 1589

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Archipelago.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for archipelago


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

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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