atlas

noun

at·​las ˈat-ləs How to pronounce atlas (audio)
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
3
a
: 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 How to pronounce atlas (audio)
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 In the motley list of titles, books on biology intermingle with books about investments, travel, farming, philosophy, atlases and cures for chronic disease. Christian Thorsberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Feb. 2024 This human brain cell atlas is merely an early edition. Quanta Magazine, 13 Dec. 2023 Several research teams have created an atlas of the mouse brain. Karin Schlott, Scientific American, 18 Dec. 2023 But then consider that other cell atlases are uncovering similar trends. Quanta Magazine, 13 Dec. 2023 The researchers also hope that their atlas will stimulate numerous other research projects. Karin Schlott, Scientific American, 18 Dec. 2023 Like geographers’ first atlases, where rivers, mountains and sometimes entire countries were missing, these atlases are early drafts of what’s to come. Quanta Magazine, 13 Dec. 2023 These are scored in part on transparency, accountability, lack of discrimination, and sustainability – the latter of which ranks poorest among the atlas’s projects, said Alexandra Vidal, a researcher and project manager who helps lead the project at the Barcelona think-tank CIBOD. Carey L. Biron, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Nov. 2023 The 37-chapter assessment includes an interactive atlas that zooms down to the county level. Seth Borenstein, Fortune, 14 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Latin Atlant-, Atlas, from Greek

First Known Use

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of atlas was in 1583

Dictionary Entries Near atlas

Cite this Entry

“Atlas.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atlas. Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

atlas

noun
at·​las ˈat-ləs How to pronounce atlas (audio)
: a book of maps
Etymology

named for Atlas, a giant in Greek mythology

Word Origin
Atlas was one of the giants of Greek mythology who ruled the world in an early age. Their rule was overthrown after a mighty battle with other gods. After his defeat, the story goes, Atlas 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 such books came to be called atlases.

Medical Definition

atlas

noun
at·​las ˈat-ləs How to pronounce atlas (audio)
: the first vertebra of the neck

More from Merriam-Webster on atlas

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