col·​o·​ny | \ ˈkä-lə-nē How to pronounce colony (audio) \
plural colonies

Definition of colony

1a : a body of people living in a new territory but retaining ties with the parent state a colony of settlers
b : the territory inhabited by such a body the 13 British colonies in America
2 : a distinguishable localized population within a species a colony of termites bird colonies on the island
3a : a circumscribed mass of microorganisms usually growing in or on a solid medium colonies of bacteria
b : the aggregation of zooids of a compound animal coral colonies
4a : a group of individuals or things with common characteristics or interests situated in close association an artist colony a nudist colony
b : the section occupied by such a group
5 : a group of persons institutionalized away from others a leper colony a penal colony also : the land or buildings occupied by such a group

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Synonyms for colony


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Examples of colony in a Sentence

Massachusetts was one of the original 13 British colonies that later became the United States. a former French colony in Africa
Recent Examples on the Web During the 2015 breeding season, three colonies didn't produce a single chick. Jessie Yeung, CNN, "A blob of hot water in the Pacific Ocean killed a million seabirds, scientists say," 16 Jan. 2020 After the die-offs began, some murre colonies failed to produce surviving offspring for several years. Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News, "Massive die-off of Pacific seabirds linked to a warm-water ‘blob’," 15 Jan. 2020 The colony of penguins has 38 members, the largest in North America, according to zoo officials. Briana Rice,, "Okapi calf and little blue penguins born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden," 14 Jan. 2020 Officials have dropped over 4,000 pounds of vegetables—mainly carrots and sweet potatoes—across key rock-wallaby colonies in New South Wales. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Planes Are Dropping Vegetables to Save Australia's Starving Animals," 13 Jan. 2020 The levees, some of which have been around for 150 years, are a major source of concern for geologists, who have warned that an earthquake, heavy storm or even a large gopher colony could cause a breach. Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, "The delta’s sinking islands," 12 Jan. 2020 Ghana was the first African colony to win its independence from Britain. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "The Art of Posters," 11 Jan. 2020 Having moved to Florence in flight from his depression, the author writes a speculative but deeply researched account of Chekhov's mysterious journey to the remote prison colony on Sakhalin Island in 1890. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "The 87 Greatest Travel Books of All Time, According to Authors," 8 Jan. 2020 However, the passion of the women—and some very enthusiastic children—of this tiny colony has brought it national fame. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "At a women-led protest site in India, Muslims navigate identity, hope, and despair," 2 Jan. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for colony

Middle English colonie, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, from Latin colonia, from colonus farmer, colonist, from colere to cultivate — more at wheel

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Time Traveler for colony

Time Traveler

The first known use of colony was in the 14th century

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Statistics for colony

Last Updated

24 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Colony.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for colony


How to pronounce colony (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of colony

: an area that is controlled by or belongs to a country and is usually far away from it
: a group of people sent by a country to live in such a colony
: a group of plants or animals living or growing in one place


col·​o·​ny | \ ˈkä-lə-nē How to pronounce colony (audio) \
plural colonies

Kids Definition of colony

1 : a distant territory belonging to or under the control of a nation
2 : a group of people sent out by a government to a new territory
3 : a group of living things of one kind living together a colony of ants
4 : a group of people with common qualities or interests located in close association an art colony


col·​o·​ny | \ ˈkäl-ə-nē How to pronounce colony (audio) \
plural colonies

Medical Definition of colony

: a circumscribed mass of microorganisms usually growing in or on a solid medium

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Comments on colony

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


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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