noun, often attributive
is·land | \ˈī-lənd \

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

isle, islet

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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


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

Next, Arte al Rescate targeted schools on the island. Morgan Smith,, "Arte al Rescate provides relief to victims of Hurricane Maria through art," 11 July 2018 More than nine months after Hurricane Maria, about 1,500 people in Puerto Rico are without power on the island; about 60,000 have only tarps for roofs. Steve Reilly, USA TODAY, "Caribbean islands brace for weakened but dangerous Tropical Storm Beryl," 8 July 2018 Earlier Wednesday, seven people were arrested on the island during a protest calling for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Zolan Kanno-youngs, WSJ, "ICE Protester Who Climbed Lady Liberty Charged With Trespassing," 5 July 2018 The project was given the all-clear on the grounds that to achieve its goal of female empowerment, women had to feel comfortable on the island. The Economist, "Women-only clubs get a makeover," 28 June 2018 In total, there are more Puerto Ricans living in the United States mainland than on the island. Emily Cadei, sacbee, "Kamala Harris is coming to Puerto Rico's aid. Will Puerto Ricans in Florida return the favor?," 25 June 2018 While most people head to Kauai for sun and sand, hikers who head into the interior of the island will find themselves in one of the wettest places on Earth. Jay Jones,, "Where to hike in Kauai to one of the wettest spots on the planet," 18 June 2018 In the distance, a plume of smoke rose from the eastern side of the island. James Masters, CNN, "'It's in blood, the nature and the culture.' Iceland's hard World Cup work pays off," 15 June 2018 That was the same year, in 1974, the northern end of the island of Isle of Palms was sold which started the destruction of the maritime forest and everything change. Southern Living, "Mary Alice Monroe: Saving Our Wildlife…One Book at a Time," 14 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The 21 percent that nest on the Kerguelen Islands in the Indian Ocean and the Falkland and Tierra del Fuego islands close to South America would find their nesting grounds altered and would have to travel farther to find food and so might relocate. Karen Weintraub, New York Times, "King Penguins Are Endangered by Warmer Seas," 26 Feb. 2018 In the offshore world, wealthy people and corporations use the banking systems of low-tax countries, often island nations in the Caribbean, to shield their assets from taxing authorities in their home countries. David Heinzmann,, "Tribune exclusive: Pritzker's secret offshore holdings revealed in Chicago duck boat land deal," 14 Mar. 2018 Critics have said the exemption allowed UBS Group AG to sell funds to island residents that later suffered big losses, wiping out many clients’ life savings. Ryan Tracy, WSJ, "Lawmakers Expand Scope of Senate Bank-Deregulation Bill," 7 Mar. 2018 To find out why, researchers set out cameras to record clownfish behaviors near North Solitary and Lord Howe islands along Australia’s east coast. Jennifer Leman, Science | AAAS, "Why some clownfish are boring," 14 Dec. 2017 Authorities were letting residents and business owners to return to Upper Keys islands close to the mainland Tuesday morning, but people from the Lower Keys faced a longer wait. Jennifer Kay And Doug Ferguson,, "Florida makes slow moves toward recovery after Hurricane Irma," 12 Sep. 2017 Dr Toomey’s findings stem from his analysis of sediment cores collected near the Dry Tortugas, islands off Florida’s coast. The Economist, "PalaeoclimatologyTraces of old hurricanes show how hard climate science is," 19 Oct. 2017 The island was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain's St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago. Carlisle Jno Baptiste And Danica Coto,, "Hurricane Maria aims at Puerto Rico after slamming Dominica," 19 Sep. 2017 Next in the storm's path was St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain's St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago., "Hurricane Maria Slams Dominica, Now Takes Aim At Puerto Rico," 19 Sep. 2017

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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Phrases Related to island

desert island

Statistics for island

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for island

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

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More Definitions for island


is·land | \ˈī-lənd \

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 \

Medical Definition of island 

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

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Comments on island

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