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

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Synonyms for island

Synonyms: Noun

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Did You Know?

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 The island's curfew also runs from midnight to 5 a.m., and businesses are allowed to stay open until 11 p.m. Coral Murphy Marcos, USA TODAY, "Puerto Rico imposes $100 mask fines, heightens police efforts as it grapples with aggressive tourists," 31 Mar. 2021 The island has a unique east-west orientation, which creates a long, south-facing beach that pitches gradually into the water. Cassie Armstrong,, "We’ve got a beach for that," 28 Mar. 2021 An average of about 10,000 to 12,000 people have flown into Puerto Rico daily this month, and only about 30% have presented a negative test, according to statistics from the island's health department. DÁnica Coto, Star Tribune, "Puerto Rico cracks down on tourists flouting pandemic rules," 23 Mar. 2021 In 2020, the economy shrank by 11%, according to Cuban government figures, as the island's tourism industry was almost entirely shut down by the pandemic. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, "Cubans are embarking on treacherous sea journeys as the economic crisis worsens," 19 Mar. 2021 However, supporters of Puerto Rican statehood legislation say the island's residents already made their decision last November, when the U.S. presidential race occurred. Kerry Picket, Washington Examiner, "Democratic lawmakers introduce legislation to end Puerto Rico's 'colonial status'," 18 Mar. 2021 Tuesday, Ott said the vaccines were brought to the town fire hall, where the island's clinic was staged. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, "Getting COVID-19 vaccines to Bois Blanc Island took a little creativity and a plane," 13 Mar. 2021 Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen won a landslide election last year on a promise of defending the island's democracy and standing up to China. NBC News, "China could invade Taiwan in the next 6 years, assume global leadership role, U.S. admiral warns," 10 Mar. 2021 Meandering through the island's 25 miles of bike paths will envelop you in breathtaking vistas. Marisa Spyker, Southern Living, "Florida's Hidden Treasure: Explore the Natural Wonders of Sanibel Island," 9 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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,, "The Outer Banks Finale Is Absolutely Wild — & Actually A Win For The Pogues," 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, "Miranda Sachs: Fears over Generation Z are overblown," 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, "Sea gulls love In-N-Out. But their diet may be changing their Channel Islands home," 22 Oct. 2019 However, islanding children often reinforces gender, class or racial divides. Miranda Sachs, Twin Cities, "Miranda Sachs: Fears over Generation Z are overblown," 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, "More than 100 dolphins die on island beach off West Africa," 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,, "A shantytown’s warning about climate change and poverty from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas," 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, "‘Tantalizing clue’ marks end of Amelia Earhart expedition," 26 Aug. 2019 Having previously done similar releases of the moths on Naushon Island — one of the Elizabeth islands off Southeastern Massachusetts — and two sites in Rhode Island, Tewksbury and researchers saw the Arboretum as a good place to continue their work. Steve Annear,, "‘It’s like a plague’: Arnold Arboretum using moths native to Ukraine to fend off invasive plant," 5 Sep. 2019

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.

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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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for island

Last Updated

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Island.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for island



English Language Learners Definition of island

: an area of land that is surrounded by water
: a raised area within a road, parking lot, or driveway that is used to separate or direct traffic
chiefly US : a separate raised area with a flat surface on which food is prepared in a kitchen


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

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Comments on island

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