April 09, 2017
- archipelago (noun)
- What does it mean?
- : a wide stretch of water with many scattered islands; also : a group of islands
- How do you use it?
- "For many years past the whale-ship has been the pioneer in ferreting out the remotest and least known parts of the earth. She has explored seas and archipelagoes which had no chart, where no Cook or Vancouver had ever sailed." (Herman Melville, _Moby-Dick_)
- Are you a word wiz?
The English word "archipelago" is adapted from an earlier Italian word "arcipelago." What did the Italian word mean?The Italian word "archipelago" means "chief sea," and comes from a combination of the Italian prefix "arci-," meaning "chief" (from Latin "archi-"), and Greek "pelagos," meaning "sea." When first used in English, "archipelago" was a proper name for a particular body of water--the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. The Aegean Sea was an important trade route, and the Italians called it the "chief sea." The Aegean Sea is also filled with many tiny islands. Eventually, English adopted "Aegean," the Greek name for this body of water, and used "archipelago" instead for any similar body of water with many islands in it or for the islands themselves. The plural of "archipelago" can be spelled "archipelagoes" or "archipelagos."