at·​las | \ ˈat-ləs How to pronounce atlas (audio) \

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 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

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 Pasture areas and levels of damage, as well as the location of meatpacking plants, are from the Atlas das Pastagens, a digital atlas of Brazilian pastures. Washington Post, 29 Apr. 2022 This atlas also includes satellite and aerial imagery depicting the changing human footprint. Jack Dangermond, Forbes, 22 Apr. 2022 Overall, 13% of the districts and 15% of the population are vulnerable to heat waves in India, the atlas showed. Soumya Sarkar, Quartz, 19 Apr. 2022 For Ajay, 11, the answer to the conflict was evident in his atlas. New York Times, 31 Mar. 2022 The original name of the ruins has come up more than once throughout history, including in a 1904 atlas and accounts written by Spaniards in the late 16th century. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, 24 Mar. 2022 That's hardly a geographic atlas of progressive politics. Frida Ghitis, CNN, 28 Dec. 2021 But Suntok’s field notes contained a vital clue: near the shoulder-blade fragment, the lawyer found a fossilized atlas—the vertebra from the base of a whale’s skull. Devon Bidal, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Feb. 2022 Ekman and Friesen developed an atlas of thousands of facial movements to interpret these expressions, called the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). John Mcquaid, Scientific American, 1 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near atlas



Atlas beetle

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Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Atlas.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for atlas


at·​las | \ ˈat-ləs How to pronounce atlas (audio) \

Kids Definition of atlas

: a book of maps


at·​las | \ ˈat-ləs How to pronounce atlas (audio) \

Medical Definition of atlas

: the first vertebra of the neck

More from Merriam-Webster on atlas

Nglish: Translation of atlas for Spanish Speakers

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


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