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 second will be the largest global marine conservation reserve located between Amini and Pitti archipelago, with an area of 344 sq km. K A Shaji, Quartz India, "India readies the world’s first safe zone for sea cucumbers," 5 May 2020 Among the world’s last island nations to remain officially virus-free is the Pacific archipelago, Vanuatu, that was just savaged by a cyclone. Dan Chiasson, The New York Review of Books, "Pandemic Journal," 29 Apr. 2020 In the maps provided as a part of the Trump plan, the Palestinian enclaves are reduced to something like an archipelago, or a hemisphere of the brain peppered by some form of dementia. Kevin Baker, Harper's Magazine, "The Striking Gesture," 27 Apr. 2020 The announcement, using China’s name for what are more commonly known as the Spratly Islands, elided the bitter dispute surrounding the archipelago, where the Chinese military has created a series of artificial islands to house military outposts. Shashank Bengali, Los Angeles Times, "What the coronavirus hasn’t stopped: Beijing’s buildup in the South China Sea," 10 Apr. 2020 Due to wind, surf and sheer distance, Hirta, the largest island in Scotland’s St. Kilda archipelago, is not easy to get to. New York Times, "T’s Most Transporting Travel Stories," 27 Mar. 2020 In 2016, scientists at the Russian Arctic National Park discovered the remains of a secret Nazi base on the remote island of Alexandra Land, in the Franz Josef Land archipelago. Fox News, "Secret Nazi World War II bunkers discovered near D-Day beaches," 5 Feb. 2020 Last week, a Russian scientific expedition set off through icy Arctic waters in a Naval landing boat, heading toward the shores of Cape Geller amidst the remote Franz Joseph Land archipelago. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "An Angry Walrus Mother Derailed a Russian Naval Expedition," 26 Sep. 2019 Indeed, during last year’s submarine hunt in the Stockholm archipelago, the Russian research vessel Professor Logachev mysteriously appeared, quickly departing with, what eyewitnesses reported as, an object being towed. Elisabeth Braw, Newsweek, "The Secret Norwegian Submarine Base Being Rented by the Russians," 19 Mar. 2015

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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The first known use of archipelago was in 1589

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Last Updated

17 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Archipelago.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for archipelago


How to pronounce archipelago (audio)

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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