ar·​chi·​pel·​a·​go | \ˌär-kə-ˈpe-lə-ˌgō, 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

Back in 2015, an extremely dry rainy season connected to a strong El Nino event led to massive fires across the archipelago, particularly on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Nithin Coca, Vox, "The most important country for the global climate no one is talking about," 6 Dec. 2018 Lidingö is deep inside the Stockholm archipelago, very close to the Swedish capital. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Mystery Submarine Spotted in Swedish Waters," 29 Oct. 2018 The race in the 26th District was particularly interesting: This district is at the state’s southern tip and includes the Florida Keys, an archipelago threatened by extreme weather and rising seas. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Florida Democrat attacked for taking “dirty coal money” defeats Carlos Curbelo," 7 Nov. 2018 Because Japan is an archipelago—a chain of four main and about 3,000 smaller islands along the Asian Pacific coast—the Japanese eat a fish-heavy diet, with unique raw preparations: sushi and sashimi. Francine Maroukian, Popular Mechanics, "How To Buy Kitchen Knives Like a Pro," 24 Oct. 2018 Haida Gwaii is the native name Canada assigned in 2010 to the archipelago formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. Melanie Kirkpatrick, WSJ, "Cold, Windy Bliss on a Salmon Fishing Trip," 9 Aug. 2018 Even better, this is the time when humpback whales are most visible and plentiful, returning to the archipelago to give birth and feed. Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "Best Places to Visit in September," 25 July 2018 Up in the remote northeast of Scotland, residents of the Orkney Islands use small island-hopping aircraft to commute around the archipelago. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Orkney Islands routes are front-runners for first commercial electric flights," 18 Oct. 2018 More than 260,000 of the Maldives' 400,000 people were eligible to vote at about 400 polling stations across the approximately 1,200 islands that comprise the Indian Ocean archipelago. Fox News, "Maldives' opposition presidential candidate claims victory," 23 Sep. 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

Share archipelago

Listen to Our Podcast about archipelago

Statistics for archipelago

Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

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, 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).


having a pattern of small flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Syn City

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!