col·​o·​ny | \ˈkä-lə-nē \
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

One of the few Outlander characters based on a real person, Governor William Tryon really was the governor of North Carolina in 1767, when Jamie and Claire first arrive in the colony. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Outlander Season 4: Meet the New Cast," 30 Oct. 2018 Just last September, Musk outlined his plan to send ships to the Red Planet in 2022, with passengers following soon after to establish a colony of (ultimately) one million humans. Condé Nast Traveler, "SpaceX Announcement: Yusaku Maezawa Is First Tourist to Fly to the Moon," 17 Sep. 2018 The group first collected ten nests of fire ants over three summers and set up colonies of 30 ants each in the laboratory, housed in transparent containers filled with glass particles to simulate soil. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "We can learn the secrets of smooth traffic flow by watching fire ants," 20 Aug. 2018 On July Fourth at Adams National Park, visitors are invited to become delegates to the Continental Congress, representing one of the 13 colonies and reenacting the passage of the Declaration of Independence., "Reenacting passage of the Declaration of Independence, a grand pet parade, and young actors hit the stage," 28 June 2018 One of those colonies today includes nearly 200 little brown bat mothers and babies. Rachel Kaufman, Smithsonian, "Three Ways Bats Could Bounce Back From Devastating White Nose Syndrome," 18 June 2018 The researchers had set out to prove that radar could be used to accurately estimate the size of bat colonies. Inga Vesper, Scientific American, "Bats Are Migrating Earlier, and It Could Wreak Havoc on Farming," 2 Apr. 2018 This one fast-forwards 30 years to find the Robinsons in the age of space colonies. Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY, "What's streaming in April? 'Handmaid's Tale,' 'Lost in Space,' 'Bosch'," 30 Mar. 2018 Researches estimated that nearly 50 percent of the coral colonies at a study site in the eastern portion of the sanctuary were bleached or in the process of bleaching. Sara Sneath,, "Gulf of Mexico coral reef dodges bullet from Hurricane Harvey, scientists report," 29 Mar. 2018

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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Statistics for colony

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for colony

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

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More Definitions for colony



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 \
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 \
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).


a private place of worship

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