at·las | \ˈat-ləs \

Definition of atlas 

1 capitalized : a Titan who for his part in the Titans' revolt against the gods is forced by Zeus to support the heavens on his shoulders

2 capitalized : one who bears a heavy burden

3a : a bound collection of maps often including illustrations, informative tables, or textual matter

b : a bound collection of tables, charts, or plates

4 : the first vertebra of the neck

5 plural usually atlantes\ət-ˈlan-(ˌ)tēz, at-\ : a male figure used like a caryatid as a supporting column or pilaster

called also telamon

Illustration of atlas

Illustration of atlas

atlas 5

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Word History of Atlas

In Greek mythology, giants ruled the world in an early age. Their rule was overthrown after a mighty battle with other gods. Atlas was one of these giants, and after their defeat, the story goes, he was forced to hold up the sky on his shoulders. In the 16th century, the Flemish mapmaker Gerardus Mercator published a collection of maps. On the title page he showed a picture of Atlas supporting his burden. Mercator gave the book the title Atlas. Later collections of maps included similar pictures of Atlas, and came to be called atlases.

Examples of atlas in a Sentence

a road atlas of the U.S.

Recent Examples on the Web

For his 6th birthday in March, Madden’s godmother got him an atlas. Allie Caren, Washington Post, "Meet the 6-year-old who can name every country — in alphabetical order," 5 July 2018 Image In a mirroring of Norse legends, a mid-1300s Medici atlas showed an archipelago floating in the middle of the Atlantic. Gisela Williams, New York Times, "Where to Shop (and Eat) in São Miguel, Portugal," 9 May 2018 His 1978 Facial Action Coding System, written with Wallace V Friesen, seeks to create an atlas of nearly all possible human expressions. Neil Steinberg, CNN, "How many types of smile are there?," 13 June 2018 Sadly, however, the atlas tell us there's still no way to visit any place called Fleek, Thicc, or #GOALS. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Fab Five from 'Queer Eye' Have Taken Over Yass, Australia," 6 June 2018 In June 2007, the atlas says, 17 nests and three eggs were observed on the island through aerial photographs. Hasan Dudar, Detroit Free Press, "Pelicans flocking to Michigan's Pointe Mouillee as population grows," 26 May 2018 In the same way that an HD television screen has a higher resolution than a standard definition screen, an HD map is much more detailed than your road atlas. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "This app features super-accurate GPS, and I can’t figure out how it works," 10 Apr. 2018 Get our daily newsletter The result is a stellar atlas of unprecedented size and accuracy—as well as great beauty. The Economist, "For the first time, astronomers have a reliable map of the heavens," 26 Apr. 2018 Richhart said police found road atlases, plastic laminating sheets and a receipt for fishing line but no other fishing gear in the home. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "Police say they know the identity of thief who uses bill on a string to rip off car washes," 24 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'atlas.' 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 atlas

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for atlas

Latin Atlant-, Atlas, from Greek

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Statistics for atlas

Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for atlas

The first known use of atlas was in 1583

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More Definitions for atlas



English Language Learners Definition of atlas

: a book of maps


at·las | \ˈat-ləs \

Kids Definition of atlas

: a book of maps


at·las | \ˈat-ləs \

Medical Definition of atlas 

: the first vertebra of the neck

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