Definition of archipelago in English:



  • 1An extensive group of islands.

    ‘the Indonesian archipelago’
    • ‘No, we live on a chain of islands, an archipelago, not a continent.’
    • ‘Several darker patches on the horizon suggested the many islands that made up the archipelago.’
    • ‘Modern humans have occupied New Guinea and the nearby Bismarck and Solomon archipelagos of Island Melanesia for at least 40,000 years.’
    • ‘Wire communications facilities across the Philippine Islands linked the archipelago by submarine cable.’
    • ‘If so much new information can be gathered from two short field seasons of general collecting and observation on one Solomon island, the amount to be learned across the two archipelagos must be staggering.’
    • ‘There are also some very pricey hideaways in the neighboring islands of the archipelago favoured by the jet set.’
    • ‘The islands of the Scilly archipelago are steeped in both maritime and diving history.’
    • ‘There are 13 main islands in the archipelago, plus four islets and some 40 outcrops of jagged rocks.’
    • ‘The mission involved a patrol to the northern-most extremity of the Solomon archipelago, to a picturesque atoll called Ontong Java.’
    • ‘As on many of the thousand islands in the archipelago, there are no roads and no electricity.’
    • ‘Horses, on the mainland and in the archipelagos, were mainly raised in the upland, cool and lightly populated valleys.’
    • ‘Sailing enthusiasts are drawn to the Abaco Islands, with its archipelago of tiny cays.’
    • ‘Groups of humans that remained in Africa might be expected to differ from those that migrated to the Russian steppes, the Asian archipelagos, or the Australian outback.’
    • ‘We had no idea whether the vessel was actually departing the archipelago or going somewhere else in the archipelago.’
    • ‘Hard core wave riders are now exploring isolated coral atolls in the South Pacific, little-known archipelagos in the Philippines and the jungle-fringed coastlines of Indonesia for big, uncrowded waves.’
    • ‘Leading a crew of Enlightenment thinkers, botanists, and linguists, Cook landed on the South Pacific Island in 1774, having already charted many of the surrounding island archipelagos.’
    • ‘Whether you are interested in buying one of our developed archipelagos or simply renting one of our smaller river islands for a week long retreat, we feel that we can meet your needs better than the competition.’
    • ‘The islands in the archipelago are mostly unspoiled and boast around 115 different bird species, including the rare crab plover.’
    • ‘At some stage, the inner archipelago gives way to the outer archipelago.’
    • ‘Within the country, a distinction is made between the capital of Nassau on New Providence Island and the out islands of the archipelago.’
    1. 1.1A sea or stretch of water having many islands.
      • ‘This is a fascinating archipelago at the southern end of the Red Sea.’
      • ‘Their preferred habitat is the annual sea ice over the continental shelf and inter-island archipelagos that encircle the polar basin.’


Early 16th century: from Italian arcipelago, from Greek arkhi- chief + pelagos sea. The word was originally used as a proper name ( the Archipelago ‘the Aegean Sea’): the general sense arose because the Aegean Sea is notable for its large numbers of islands.