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 Despite the combined efforts of the Russian America Company and the Russian government, the difficulties in keeping the colony supplied with food and other necessities proved impossible to overcome. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, "An updated history of Alaska, from Russian exploration to the current “fiscal gap,” shows influences and ironies," 19 Sep. 2020 While the best time to catch them is between July and August when the colony reaches their peak, they can also be seen as late as October. Alaa Elassar, CNN, "The National Weather Service spotted a massive bat colony on its weather radar," 19 Sep. 2020 The colony produced more coffee than anywhere else in the world. Maryn Mckenna, The Atlantic, "Coffee Is Under Attack," 16 Sep. 2020 The ancient seafarers introduced vineyards and wineries to their colony cities in North Africa, Sicily, France, and Spain. Tom Metcalfe, National Geographic, "2,600-year-old wine 'factory' unearthed in Lebanon," 14 Sep. 2020 Tulane's primate research center has about 5,000 monkeys but only about 500 are used for research in a normal year because of age, health and colony dynamics. Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY, "America is facing a monkey shortage as demand skyrockets for COVID-19 research, experts say," 11 Sep. 2020 The security law has raised questions about whether Hong Kong retains the high degree of autonomy it was supposed to enjoy after Britain returned the colony to China in 1997. John Lyons, WSJ, "Hong Kong Protesters Return to Streets Over Postponed Elections," 6 Sep. 2020 Relative to other settlements, the colony attracted few migrants. Peter C. Mancall, The Conversation, "The complicated legacy of the Pilgrims is finally coming to light 400 years after they landed in Plymouth," 4 Sep. 2020 And if the Mars colony plans to endure and put down roots, that means having food, shelter, medical care, and mental and emotional stimulation for the entire population. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Elon Musk Says Settlers Will Likely Die on Mars. He's Right.," 2 Sep. 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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Last Updated

26 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Colony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 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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