noun, often attributive
is·​land | \ ˈī-lənd How to pronounce island (audio) \

Definition of island

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a tract of land surrounded by water and smaller than a continent
2 : something resembling an island especially in its isolated or surrounded position: such as
a : a usually raised area within a thoroughfare, parking lot, or driveway used especially to separate or direct traffic
b : a superstructure on the deck of a ship (such as an aircraft carrier)
c : a kitchen counter that is approachable from all sides
3 : an isolated group or area especially : an isolated ethnological group


islanded; islanding; islands

Definition of island (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to make into or as if into an island
b : to dot with or as if with islands
2 : isolate

Synonyms for island

Synonyms: Noun

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The words island and isle are etymologically distinct. Island can be traced back to Old English īgland, composed of two elements īg and land. Land, as we might expect means “land,” but īg means “island” in Old English. In a sense, then, īgland is “island-land.” The English isle, on the other hand, is derived through medieval French from the Latin insula. In the 16th century, under the influence of isle, the letter s was added to iland, the earlier form of island. The verb island did not appear until the 17th century.

Examples of island in a Sentence

Noun He lives on an island in the Caribbean. the island of Hawaii is the largest in the Hawaiian archipelago
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Iron lanterns hang over the island with its Cambria Brittannicca stone countertop. Kathy Orton, Washington Post, 20 May 2022 While that one—named after the fictional island setting of Live and Let Die—has a tropical theme with its striped surrey top, the 60 Years version is more like James Bond in a tux. Car and Driver, 20 May 2022 Cities tend to be warmer than surrounding rural areas because buildings and roads absorb the sun's heat more than natural landscapes -- a phenomena known as the heat island effect. Helen Regan, CNN, 20 May 2022 Stansbury also is immortalized by an island named after him. The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 May 2022 With the island included, the number of persistent poverty counties (and county equivalents) grows from 377 to 455. Partners For Rural Transformation, Forbes, 19 May 2022 Spend your days rolling in the waves, relaxing by the pool or enjoying some quiet time (thanks to some superior kids' clubs) at these island resorts. Karen Cicero, Good Housekeeping, 19 May 2022 The jagged peaks and turquoise waters give the island a screensaver vibe. Alesandra Dubin, Woman's Day, 19 May 2022 Each cruise features a stop at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. Mark Gauert, Sun Sentinel, 18 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Want to island hop around French Polynesia, visit Africa's incredible cities, and cruise through Asia without ever switching hotels, boarding a flight, or repacking your bags? Elizabeth Rhodes, Travel + Leisure, 3 Jan. 2022 The episode centres around John B.’s (Chase Stokes) flight from his Outer Banks island hometown after he is framed for the murder of Sheriff Peterkin (Adina Porter). Ariana Romero,, 20 Apr. 2020 While sending children to work in factories isn’t good for them, either, holding up the postwar era as ideal may limit the ability to address the harms that stem from islanding. Miranda Sachs, Twin Cities, 30 Sep. 2019 For the last few years, Guerra has been studying the eating habits of western gulls that nest on Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands in the Channel Islands archipelago. Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times, 22 Oct. 2019 However, islanding children often reinforces gender, class or racial divides. Miranda Sachs, Twin Cities, 30 Sep. 2019 Authorities in the Cape Verde islands off West Africa are waiting for experts from Spain to help determine why more than 100 dolphins died on a local beach. San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 Sep. 2019 The devastation was so widespread across Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands that recovery crews were only beginning to get into many areas more than a week later and only a few dozen bodies had been formally counted. Phil Mckenna,, 11 Sep. 2019 Indeed, after this expedition, Nautilus is heading to Howland and Baker islands to map the waters off of these U.S. Territories for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Geographic, 26 Aug. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'island.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of island


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1661, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for island


alteration (influenced by Anglo-French isle) of earlier iland, from Middle English, from Old English īgland (akin to Old Norse eyland), from īg island (akin to Old English ēa river, Latin aqua water) + land land

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Time Traveler for island

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The first known use of island was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near island



island arc

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Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Island.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for island


is·​land | \ ˈī-lənd How to pronounce island (audio) \

Kids Definition of island

1 : an area of land surrounded by water and smaller than a continent
2 : something like an island in its isolation We have a counter island in our kitchen.


is·​land | \ ˈī-lənd How to pronounce island (audio) \

Medical Definition of island

: an isolated anatomical structure, tissue, or group of cells

More from Merriam-Webster on island

Nglish: Translation of island for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of island for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about island


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