\ 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

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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 The three-person crew aboard a 23-foot skiff set out from Pulawat atoll on Thursday. Fox News, "Missing sailors rescued from Pacific island after SOS signal spotted in the sand," 4 Aug. 2020 Part of the atoll Alif Alif Atoll, Ukulhas is an under-the-radar island boasting pristine beaches that are frequently cleaned to encourage tourism and combat pollution. Maya Kachroo-levine, Travel + Leisure, "12 Beautiful Beaches in the Maldives You Have to See to Believe," 3 Aug. 2020 Dives along the outer reef of the 15-mile atoll revealed the seaweed in varying densities and depths. Author: Caleb Jones, Anchorage Daily News, "Aggressive seaweed smothers one of world’s most remote reefs in the Hawaiian Islands," 8 July 2020 Adaptation is possible, even in low-lying atoll nations. Simon Donner, Scientific American, "The Ugly History of Climate Determinism Is Still Evident Today," 24 June 2020 The winds then carried it to three neighboring atolls. Carl Zimmer, The Atlantic, "Nuclear Tests Marked Life on Earth With a Radioactive Spike," 20 Mar. 2020 Over a 10-day period, Mr. Sawyer and the Rainbow Warrior crew evacuated about 300 residents, their livestock and possessions to another atoll about 100 miles away. Matt Schudel, Washington Post, "Steve Sawyer, Greenpeace leader who escaped 1985 sabotage bombing, dies at 63," 9 Aug. 2019 Janet Browne’s magisterial two-volume life would be included; so would David Dobbs’s Reef Madness, about Darwin’s theory of the formation of coral atolls, and a handful of books on the Scopes trial. David Quammen, The New York Review of Books, "The Brilliant Plodder," 8 Apr. 2020 Low-lying coral atoll nations such as the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu in the Pacific and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are particularly vulnerable to rising oceans, averaging just a few feet above sea level. Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times, "Marshall Islands, low-lying U.S. ally and nuclear testing site, declares a climate crisis," 11 Oct. 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for atoll

Time Traveler

The first known use of atoll was in 1625

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Last Updated

13 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Atoll.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for atoll


How to pronounce atoll (audio) How to pronounce atoll (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on atoll

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for atoll

Spanish Central: Translation of atoll

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

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