\ 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 Highlights include incredible drift diving at the entrance to atolls and snorkeling in lagoons carpeted with shallow corals. Terry Ward, Condé Nast Traveler, "4 Cruises Hand-Picked for Divers and Snorkelers," 15 Jan. 2020 Baros was one of the first luxury resorts to open there in 1973, long before the idyllic atolls were a global tourist destination. Vogue, "Want a Valentine’s Day Getaway? This Is the Most Romantic Resort in the World," 2 Jan. 2020 Those of us from low-lying atolls and coastal areas across the Pacific are living the reality of climate change. Washington Post, "They said it: Leaders at the UN, in their own words," 26 Sep. 2019 The outermost of the Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts, this tiny windswept atoll was her playground and playmate. David Kindy, Smithsonian, "After 90 Years, the ‘Flying Santa’ Is Still Dropping Gifts From a Plane," 17 Dec. 2019 On some atolls there, live coral covers 70% of the reef’s surface; on others, big fish such as grouper and barracuda that have almost disappeared elsewhere are thriving. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "As coral reefs suffer around the world, reefs in French Polynesia are thriving," 16 Dec. 2019 The tests, conducted at Bikini atoll, left huge craters and are still plainly visible today. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Nearly 75 Years Later, Scientists Map the Craters Created by Underwater Nuclear Tests," 12 Dec. 2019 There is one airport, one bank, one hospital and one road that spans the length of the atoll. Alexander Lee, Washington Post, "Tuvalu is a tiny island nation of 11,000 people. It’s cashing in thanks to Twitch.," 23 Dec. 2019 What to do in the Azores Climb Mount Pico, Pico Island From afar Pico looks like a child's drawing: an atoll appearing in a cerulean sea, the mountain in the center with a small, slightly off-center triangular peak. Trish Lorenz, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Explore the Azores, Island by Island," 19 Nov. 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.

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

Time Traveler for atoll

Time Traveler

The first known use of atoll was in 1625

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about atoll

Statistics for atoll

Last Updated

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Atoll.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on atoll

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for atoll

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
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!