\ ˈa-ˌtȯl How to pronounce atoll (audio) , -ˌtäl, -ˌtōl, ˈā- How to pronounce atoll (audio) \

Definition of atoll

: a coral island consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon

Illustration of atoll

Illustration of atoll

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

If you are lucky enough to sail south and west of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, you'll find the Maldives, a group of about 1,200 coral islands and sandbanks that form the Republic of Maldives. Many islands in that independent nation demonstrate the archetypal atoll, and geographers often use them to point out the characteristic features of such coral islands. Given how prevalent atolls are there, it isn't surprising that atoll comes from the name for that kind of island in Divehi, the official language of the Maldives.

Examples of atoll in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Malaysia and Brunei are the other claimants to the chain of islands and barren islets and atolls. Jim Gomez, The Seattle Times, "Duterte: China should temper its behavior in disputed waters," 14 Aug. 2018 Observing the atoll with satellites, scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discovered East Island completely inundated with water, rendering it a nearly invisible patchwork of sand. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "A Remote Hawaiian Island Disappeared Completely Following a Hurricane," 24 Oct. 2018 First came former president Barack Obama, who spent a month in 2017 tucked away from the world to write his memoir in the atoll of Tetiaroa, staying at The Brando. Cynthia Drescher, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Everyone Is Suddenly Traveling to Tahiti," 9 Nov. 2018 The 11-acre East Island was part of the French Frigate Shoals—the largest atoll in the northwestern Hawaiian islands—and fell victim to Hurricane Walaka, which battered the state with Category 3 gales earlier this month. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "A Remote Hawaiian Island Disappeared Completely Following a Hurricane," 24 Oct. 2018 British physicist working for British intelligence goes undercover on a coral atoll in the Pacific to investigate a plot to steal a top secret weapon. Alessandra Stanley, New York Times, "In Praise of Alistair MacLean and the Male Romance," 13 Feb. 2018 On the direction of the U.S. Department of Defense, which maintains a military base in the Marshall Islands, Storlazzi's team was tasked with modeling how wave-driven flooding would impact the atoll of Roi-Namur. Michael Greshko, National Geographic, "Within Decades, Floods May Render Many Islands Uninhabitable," 25 Apr. 2018 Tahiti is one of the Society Islands, which is part of French Polynesia, made up of 118 islands and atolls. Catharine Hamm,, "Head for Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui for $875 round trip from LAX," 2 Mar. 2018 In the 1960s, the few Chaggosians in the archipelago were relocated to make way for an American military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the atolls. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Coral Reefs Need Fewer Rats and More Bird Poo," 12 July 2018

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

1625, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for atoll

Divehi (Indo-Aryan language of the Maldive Islands) atolu

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about atoll

Listen to Our Podcast about atoll

Dictionary Entries near atoll







atom beam

Statistics for atoll

Last Updated

26 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for atoll

The first known use of atoll was in 1625

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for atoll



English Language Learners Definition of atoll

: an island that is made of coral and shaped like a ring


\ ˈa-ˌtȯl How to pronounce atoll (audio) , -ˌtäl\

Kids Definition of atoll

: a ring-shaped coral island consisting of a coral reef surrounding a lagoon

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on atoll

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with atoll

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for atoll

Spanish Central: Translation of atoll

Nglish: Translation of atoll for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about atoll

Comments on atoll

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


highly pertinent or appropriate

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!