ar·​chi·​pel·​a·​go ˌär-kə-ˈpe-lə-ˌgō How to pronounce archipelago (audio)
plural archipelagoes or archipelagos
: an expanse of water with many scattered islands
: a group of islands
: 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 Though they’re imported, the flowers have become a symbol of the Azores and grow throughout the archipelago. Andrew Nelson, USA TODAY, 18 Apr. 2024 Today, only 8,000 people reside in the Aleutians; about half occupy remote villages scattered throughout the archipelago. Susan Portnoy, Travel + Leisure, 29 Mar. 2024 The remote archipelago is throwing off a troubled colonial past to tell new stories. Catherine Fairweather, Condé Nast Traveler, 20 Mar. 2024 Indigenous mythology names symbolic caves as the great cosmic incubators, giving birth to the moon, the sun and the archipelago’s first people. Carina Del Valle Schorske, New York Times, 20 Mar. 2024 Some of the spots are known — but others could be considered secret gems, tucked along the the 120-mile archipelago. Emma Janssen, Miami Herald, 23 Feb. 2024 The Maldives is an archipelago made up of over 1,000 islands sitting mere feet above sea level, which means the country is 99% ocean. Kathleen Wong, USA TODAY, 7 Apr. 2024 The pandemic lockdown in Japan coincided with a flurry of new hotels, especially in Kyoto, where the Park Hyatt, Aman and Four Seasons were joined by a group of independent properties and the first Ace hotel in the archipelago. John Wogan, New York Times, 1 Apr. 2024 The archipelago’s beauty spots feature heavily in promotional campaigns aimed at attracting more overseas visitors. Kathleen Magramo, CNN, 21 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'archipelago.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Archipelago Aegean Sea, from Italian Arcipelago, literally, chief sea, from arci- (from Latin archi-) + Greek pelagos sea — more at plagal

First Known Use

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of archipelago was in 1589


Dictionary Entries Near archipelago

Cite this Entry

“Archipelago.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ar·​chi·​pel·​a·​go ˌär-kə-ˈpel-ə-ˌgō How to pronounce archipelago (audio)
plural archipelagoes or archipelagos
: a wide stretch of water with many scattered islands
also : a group of islands

More from Merriam-Webster on archipelago

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