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

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

Unfortunately, even though the humane society was on an elevated foundation and had survived other storms without serious issue, the strength of Dorian caused a storm surge to douse the island, flooding the shelter. Kelli Bender,, "Hundreds of Shelter Pets Die During Hurricane Dorian Flooding at Bahamas Animal Rescue," 9 Sep. 2019 Thousands have fled the islands after Dorian tore away roofs, flooded entire neighborhoods and left tens of thousands of people homeless. Katie Shepherd, Anchorage Daily News, "Bahamas hurricane survivors kicked off ferry over U.S. visa demands," 9 Sep. 2019 To be fair, the Texans did send Miami the kind of package that would normally be reserved for a franchise quarterback and multiple Hawaiian islands. Gary Gramling,, "Do Not Embrace the Tank, the Patriots Are Not Magical, Who’s Playing in Super Bowl 54," 8 Sep. 2019 In the 19th century, the island’s winery and vineyard produced some of the wines most favored by Californians. Stephanie Cain, Fortune, "Some of California’s Most Famous Wines Came from a Science Experiment," 8 Sep. 2019 Cruise ship evacuates 1,500 in Bahamas The Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line helped evacuate more than 1,500 people from Grand Bahama island. CBS News, "Dorian still slamming Canada with hurricane-force winds," 8 Sep. 2019 But just a few miles north of the county line in Riverside there is a sky island jutting nearly 9,000 feet high. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Sit-and-see adventure at Santa Rosa Mountains," 7 Sep. 2019 The island kitchen showcases two electric cooktops, two electric ovens, a walk-in pantry and expansive granite counter space for prepping. Emilia Benton, Houston Chronicle, "Home with guesthouse available in Hunter’s Creek Village," 7 Sep. 2019 Donation and relief efforts are well underway throughout the U.S, and the Bahamas Consulate General in Atlanta launched the #BahamasStrong relief campaign this week to collect supplies for the islands. al, "Weekend Sip: These two Birmingham parties will collect proceeds to help the Bahamas," 7 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Delvin Major, chief investigator for the Bahamas Air Accident Investigation Department, said all three people were rescued and safe and taken to Cat Cay in Bimini islands chain. Linda Trischitta,, "Three flyers on way to Miami survive plane crash in Bahamas," 8 Aug. 2019 Archaeologist Geoff Bailey, at the University of York, is currently working on a research project focused on a small group of southern Red Sea islands off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "Rising Seas Swallowed Countless Archaeological Sites. Scientists Want Them Back," 20 May 2019 Between 1660 and 1806, the Danish transported 100,000—126,000 Africans to the Danish West Indies (St Croix, St John and St Thomas islands). Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, Quartz Africa, "A Ghanaian royal family’s conflict of collaboration and resistance in the African slave trade," 13 July 2019 According to Greenland’s Sermitsiaq newspaper (via CBS), the animal traveled a whopping 2,176 miles in 76 days, walking from Norway’s Svalbard islands to Northern Canada. Eric Todisco,, "Fox Travels 2,176 Miles in 76 Days from Norway to Canada, Leaving Scientists 'Speechless'," 2 July 2019 Chalifoux, who has been driving on the island for 11 years, said the community has supported the drivers by offering carpool rides to island workers via a community Facebook group. Allison Hagan,, "Martha’s Vineyard bus drivers go on strike," 28 June 2019 The Pacific islands the Austronesians came to settle — eventually all the way to Hawaii and Easter Island — are like grains of sand scattered across a vast blue void. James R. Hansen, Discover Magazine, "For Neil, Apollo Was the First Step in Humanity's Cosmic Migration," 20 May 2019 That network can island off from the larger grid and run on its own, at least for a limited time, if there is a blackout. David Roberts, Vox, "Clean energy technologies threaten to overwhelm the grid. Here’s how it can adapt.," 30 Nov. 2018

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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Statistics for island

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for island

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on island

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with island

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for island

Spanish Central: Translation of island

Nglish: Translation of island for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on island

What made you want to look up island? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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