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

Keep scrolling for more

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

That's still the only rebranding to stay permanently in the road atlas—unless this tiny Florida town is serious about being named for condiment. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "Mayo, Florida Was Just Renamed for a Different Condiment," 24 Sep. 2018 There's benzoin and rose honey in there, plus incense absolute, ylang ylang, cumin, atlas cedar, and sandalwood. Sarah Wu, Glamour, "I Replaced My $215 Perfume With This $6 Body Wash," 19 Oct. 2018 One example: a cell atlas that maps out all the different types of cells in the body, which could help researchers create various types of drugs. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Pledge $3 Billion to End Disease," 22 Sep. 2016 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of atlas

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for atlas

Latin Atlant-, Atlas, from Greek

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about atlas

Statistics for atlas

Last Updated

29 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for atlas

The first known use of atlas was in 1583

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on atlas

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with atlas

Spanish Central: Translation of atlas

Nglish: Translation of atlas for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of atlas for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about atlas

Comments on atlas

What made you want to look up atlas? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!