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 chef kitchen has a gas cooktop, island with an eating bar, granite counters and two pantries. oregonlive, "On the market: Homes with a kid-friendly backyard sell quicker and for more, says Zillow," 8 May 2021 Typically, Disney cruises stop at the company’s island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. Brooke Baitinger,, "Get your mouse ears ready: Disney cruises may sail from Fort Lauderdale," 7 May 2021 Explore a treasure trove of mystical island vibes in the backyard and sleep in a beachy bungalow each night. Hillary Maglin, Travel + Leisure, "9 Incredible Pop Culture-themed Airbnbs — From 'Harry Potter' Villas to 'Game of Thrones' Apartments," 7 May 2021 Australia has used its island geography to effectively contain the coronavirus by largely shutting its international border and restricting the number of inbound flights. WSJ, "Covid-19 Live Updates: Nearly a Third of the U.S. Population Is Fully Vaccinated," 7 May 2021 The conflict revolved around the self-governing British island of Jersey, just 14 miles off the French coast. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for May 7: Coronavirus, GOP, school violence, voting limits, Brexit," 7 May 2021 Such causes have since gained ground as the island increasingly seeks to carve out an identity that’s distinct from mainland China. New York Times, "Taiwan Court Upholds Laws Restricting Hunting," 7 May 2021 The island of Kauai has moved into a more restrictive tier of the state’s pandemic reopening plan, while the capital city is staying in Tier 3 for at least another month, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Ballpark bargain, beef passports, concerts for the vaccinated: News from around our 50 states," 7 May 2021 The six-square-mile island lies just 200 miles from Russia. David Axe, Forbes, "A Cold, Foggy U.S. Air Force Base Waits Just 200 Miles From Russia," 7 May 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

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Island.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 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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