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

The other islands are rat free and contain huge colonies of seabirds. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Coral Reefs Need Fewer Rats and More Bird Poo," 12 July 2018 Buy Photo The colony of rare African penguins has happy feet, shiny feathers, and a lot more pep now that the $2 million upgrade to their home has been completed at Adventure Aquarium in Camden. Jan Hefler,, "Endangered penguins splash it up in new digs at Camden's Adventure Aquarium," 16 May 2018 My aunt, who was six years older, had sent off a mail-order form and already had a colony of the creatures. Cassie Armstrong,, "National Sea Monkey Day: How to celebrate in Central Florida," 16 May 2018 In 1914, the Ludlow Massacre took place when the Colorado National Guard opened fire on a tent colony of striking miners; about 20 (accounts vary) strikers, women and children died. azcentral, "AZ Memo: New statue honors Yarnell Hotshots; residents say Phoenix not adding enough shade trees; Record Store Day what to know," 20 Apr. 2018 The boxes contained colonies of bees and are used to raise the bees and make honey, the Sheriff's Office said. Bob Warren,, "Families feel sting of bee thefts in Tangipahoa Parish," 18 Apr. 2018 An ordinary colony of 75 bats can devour up to 75,000 insects in a single hour—talk about organic pest control! Emily O'brien, Good Housekeeping, "5 Ways To Attract Bats To Your Yard," 20 Oct. 2016 Weems appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court—which was possible only because the Philippine islands were then an American colony. Clifton Leaf, Fortune, "Brainstorm Health: Cruel and Unusual, Amazon and PillPack, Biotech IPO Madness," 28 June 2018 On Friday, the Spanish monarchs flew to New Orleans to celebrate the city's tricentennial, as Louisiana was a Spanish colony from 1763 to 1802. Temi Adebowale, Harper's BAZAAR, "King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain Are on a Whirlwind Trip Across the U.S.," 18 June 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

19 Sep 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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