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

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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

Nine lighthouses dot six islands throughout the archipelago. Sharyn Alden, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Island hopping in Wisconsin: 5 worth a visit," 15 June 2018 Geographically, the state of Hawaii is an archipelago, which means a group of scattered islands. Elizabeth Chang,, "Your friends in Hawaii are probably safe from the volcano on the Big Island. Here's why.," 16 May 2018 America could devolve, slow-motion, into an archipelago of warlord states—like China after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty—pitting the coasts against the interior, with progressive fortresses at Austin, Texas, and other big university towns. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "Political Harassment Is for the Birds," 6 July 2018 Filicudi is the second-farthest west of the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago that stretches for 50 miles north of Sicily. Howie Kahn, Smithsonian, "These Volcanic, Italian Islands Have Been Beloved by Travelers Since Homeric Times," 11 July 2018 In the 1960s, the few Chaggosians in the archipelago were relocated to make way for an American military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the atolls. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Coral Reefs Need Fewer Rats and More Bird Poo," 12 July 2018 Indonesia, an archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands, is notorious for boat accidents, plane crashes and other transportation disasters. Mike Ives, New York Times, "Rescuers Search for More Than 160 Missing After Indonesian Ferry Sinks," 19 June 2018 Two B-52s, for example, recently flew over the Spratly Islands, the archipelago of shoals and reefs where China has been building artificial islands and equipping them with missiles and radar systems. New York Times, "China Won’t Yield ‘Even One Inch’ of South China Sea, Xi Tells Mattis," 27 June 2018 Located in the Pacific Ocean some 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador, the archipelago of 20 volcanic islands (and dozens more islets) remains an unspoiled utopia despite hosting more than 200,000 annual visitors. Alexandra Kirkman, Fortune, "Visit the Galapagos Like a Royal," 23 June 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.

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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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Last Updated

2 Nov 2018

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The first known use of archipelago was in 1589

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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

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