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

In 1997, Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule after 156 years as a British colony., "This day in history," 30 June 2018 In comparison to his counterparts in Britain and France, King Leopold II of Belgium was a relative latecomer to empire-building, founding Congo as a colony in the late 19th century. New York Times, "Belgium Honors Congolese Leader It Helped Overthrow," 30 June 2018 Is the answer to quarantine him in a penal colony …? Vahe Gregorian, kansascity, "The Royals are considering trying to sign Luke Heimlich. Here's why they shouldn't," 25 June 2018 The story of why in the briefest possible terms: Farming declined during Puerto Rico’s days as a Spanish colony, when native agriculture ceded to large colonial plantations. Tamar Adler, Vogue, "The Young Farmers Behind Puerto Rico’s Food Revolution," 20 June 2018 When the World Cup started in Russia on Thursday, Oleg Sentsov was on day 32 of his hunger strike in a northern Siberian penal colony. Sabra Ayres,, "Ukrainian film director on hunger strike in a Russian prison casts dark cloud over World Cup," 19 June 2018 With 134 official residents, Loving is officially the second-least-populous county in the nation, behind Kalawao County, Hawaii, a tiny sliver of land that was set aside in the 1800s as a colony for people with leprosy. Jeffrey Ball, Fortune, "Photographing The Permian Basin," 25 May 2018 The agreement, which formally ended the First Opium War, wrested control of the island off the coast of southeast China from the Chinese and turned it into a British colony for 156 years. Julissa Treviño, Smithsonian, "These Tiny Works of Art Depict a Disappearing Way of Life in Hong Kong," 1 Mar. 2018 The cat for years had lived in a feral cat colony at the Zeus' Place in Uptown. Emily Lane,, "Man who fatally shot cat: 'I'm not...the monster you think I am'," 11 Jan. 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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Phrases Related to colony

penal colony

Statistics for colony

Last Updated

17 Oct 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

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