AskDefine | Define island

Dictionary Definition



1 a land mass (smaller than a continent) that is surrounded by water
2 a zone or area resembling an island

User Contributed Dictionary



īġland. The S was added by confusion with French isle, which is not related but is instead from Latin insula. Cognate with German Aue, "water-meadow", and Latin aqua. Compare German Eiland, Old Norse eyland, and English ey as in Anglesey, Bardsey, Ely.



  1. An area of land totally surrounded by water.
  2. An entity surrounded by other entities that are very different from itself.
    an island of tranquility (a calm place surrounded by a noisy environment)


Related terms


area of land surrounded by water
entity surrounded by other entities that are very different from itself
  • Albanian: ishull
  • Czech: ostrov
  • Danish: ø
  • Faroese: oyggj
  • Finnish: saareke
  • French: île
  • Hebrew:
  • Hungarian: sziget
  • Japanese: (しま, shimá)
  • Latvian: sala
  • Norwegian: øy
  • Polish: wyspa
  • Russian: остров
  • Slovene: otok
  • Swedish: ö
Cyrillic: острво
Roman: ostrvo

See also

Extensive Definition

An island () or isle (/ˈaɪl/) is any piece of land that is completely surrounded by water in two dimensions, above high tide, and isolated from other significant landmasses. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls are called islets. A key or cay is another name for a small island or islet. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot, /ˈaɪət/. There are two main types of islands: continental islands and oceanic islands. There are also artificial islands. A grouping of geographically and/or geologically related islands is called an archipelago.
The word island comes from Old English ī(e)gland (literally, "watery land"). However, the spelling of the word was modified in the 15th century by association with the etymologically unrelated Old French loanword isle.
There is no standard of size which distinguishes islands from islets and continents.
When defining islands as pieces of land that are completely surrounded by water, narrow bodies of water like rivers and canals are generally left out of consideration. For instance, in France the Canal du Midi connects the Garonne river to the Mediterranean Sea, thereby completing a continuous water connection from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. So technically, the land mass that includes the Iberian Peninsula and the part of France that is south of the Garonne River and the Canal du Midi is completely surrounded by water. For a completely natural example, the Orinoco River splits into two branches near Tamatama, in Amazonas state, Venezuela. The southern branch flows south and joins the Rio Negro, and then the Amazon. Thus, all of the Guianas (Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana) and substantial parts of Brazil and Venezuela are surrounded by (river or ocean) water. These instances are not generally considered islands.
This also helps explain why Africa-Eurasia can be seen as one continuous landmass (and thus technically the biggest island): generally the Suez Canal is not seen as something that divides the land mass in two.
On the other hand, an island may still be described as such despite the presence of a land bridge, e.g., Singapore and its causeway or the various Dutch delta Islands, such as IJsselmonde. The retaining of the island description may therefore be to some degree simply due to historical reasons - though the land bridges are often of a different geological nature (for example sand instead of stone), and thus the islands remain islands in a more scientific sense as well.


Continental islands

Continental islands are bodies of land that lie on the continental shelf of a continent. Examples include Greenland and Sable Island off North America; Barbados and Trinidad off South America; Great Britain, Ireland and Sicily off Europe; Sumatra and Java off Asia; and New Guinea, Tasmania and Kangaroo Island off Australia.
A special type of continental island is the microcontinental island, which results when a continent is rifted. Examples are Madagascar off Africa; the Kerguelen Islands; and some of the Seychelles.
Another subtype is an island or bar formed by deposition of tiny rocks where a water current loses some of its carrying capacity. An example is barrier islands, which are accumulations of sand deposited by sea currents on the continental shelf. Another example is islands in river deltas or in large rivers. While some are transitory and may disappear if the volume or speed of the current changes, others are stable and long-lived.

Oceanic islands

Oceanic islands are ones that do not sit on continental shelves. They are volcanic in origin. One type of oceanic island is found in a volcanic island arc. These islands arise from volcanoes where the subduction of one plate under another is occurring. Examples include the Mariana Islands, the Aleutian Islands and most of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the Lesser Antilles and the South Sandwich Islands are the only Atlantic Ocean examples.
Another type of oceanic island occurs where an oceanic rift reaches the surface. There are two examples: Iceland, which is the world's largest volcanic island, and Jan Mayen — both are in the Atlantic.
A third type of oceanic island is formed over volcanic hotspots. A hotspot is more or less stationary relative to the moving tectonic plate above it, so a chain of islands results as the plate drifts. Over long periods of time, this type of island is eventually eroded and "drowned" by isostatic adjustment, becoming a seamount. Plate movement across a hot-spot produces a line of islands oriented in the direction of the plate movement. An example is the Hawaiian Islands, from Hawaii to Kure, which then extends beneath the sea surface in a more northerly direction as the Emperor Seamounts. Another chain with similar orientation is the Tuamotu Archipelago; its older, northerly trend is the Line Islands. The southernmost chain is the Austral Islands, with its northerly trending part the atolls in the nation of Tuvalu. Tristan da Cunha is an example of a hotspot volcano in the Atlantic Ocean. Another hot spot in the Atlantic is the island of Surtsey, which was formed in 1963.
An atoll is an island formed from a coral reef that has grown on an eroded and submerged volcanic island. The reef rises to the surface of the water and forms a new island. Atolls are typically ring-shaped with a central lagoon. Examples include the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and Line Islands in the Pacific.
island in Afrikaans: Eiland
island in Tosk Albanian: Insel
island in Arabic: جزيرة
island in Aragonese: Isla
island in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): ܓܙܪܬܐ
island in Asturian: Islla (xeografía)
island in Azerbaijani: آدا
island in Min Nan: Tó-sū
island in Belarusian: Востраў
island in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Выспа
island in Central Bicolano: Isla
island in Bosnian: Ostrvo
island in Breton: Enez (douar)
island in Bulgarian: Остров
island in Catalan: Illa
island in Cebuano: Pulo
island in Czech: Ostrov
island in Corsican: Isula
island in Welsh: Ynys
island in Danish: Ø
island in German: Insel
island in Estonian: Saar
island in Modern Greek (1453-): Νησί
island in Emiliano-Romagnolo: Îsla
island in Spanish: Isla
island in Esperanto: Insulo
island in Basque: Uharte (geografia)
island in Persian: جزیره (جغرافیا)
island in Faroese: Oyggj
island in French: Île
island in Western Frisian: Eilân
island in Gan Chinese: 島
island in Galician: Illa
island in Korean: 섬
island in Hindi: द्वीप
island in Croatian: Otok
island in Ido: Insulo
island in Indonesian: Pulau
island in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Insula
island in Ossetian: Сакъадах
island in Icelandic: Eyja
island in Italian: Isola
island in Hebrew: אי
island in Georgian: კუნძული
island in Swahili (macrolanguage): Kisiwa
island in Kurdish: Girav
island in Latin: Insula
island in Latvian: Sala
island in Luxembourgish: Insel
island in Lithuanian: Sala
island in Lojban: daplu
island in Hungarian: Sziget
island in Macedonian: Остров
island in Malagasy: Nosy
island in Malayalam: ദ്വീപ്
island in Malay (macrolanguage): Pulau
island in Mongolian: Арал
island in Dutch: Eiland
island in Dutch Low Saxon: Eilaand
island in Cree: ᒥᓂᔥᑎᒄ
island in Japanese: 島
island in Neapolitan: Isula
island in Pitcairn-Norfolk: Ailen
island in Norwegian: Øy
island in Norwegian Nynorsk: Øy
island in Narom: Île
island in Occitan (post 1500): Illa
island in Papiamento: Isla
island in Low German: Insel
island in Polish: Wyspa
island in Portuguese: Ilha
island in Kölsch: Ėnsel
island in Romanian: Insulă
island in Vlax Romani: Dvip
island in Romansh: Insla
island in Quechua: Wat'a
island in Russian: Остров
island in Albanian: Ishulli
island in Sicilian: Ìsula
island in Simple English: Island
island in Silesian: Wyspa
island in Slovak: Ostrov
island in Slovenian: Otok
island in Serbian: Острво
island in Serbo-Croatian: Ostrvo
island in Sundanese: Pulo
island in Finnish: Saari
island in Swedish: Ö (landområde)
island in Tagalog: Pulo
island in Tamil: தீவு
island in Telugu: ద్వీపం
island in Thai: เกาะ
island in Vietnamese: Đảo
island in Tok Pisin: Ailan
island in Turkish: Ada
island in Ukrainian: Острів
island in Venetian: Ixoła
island in Yiddish: אינזל
island in Contenese: 島
island in Chinese: 島嶼

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

aerodrome, air base, airdrome, airfield, airport, ait, archipelagian, archipelagic, archipelago, atoll, bar, cay, close off, continental island, coral head, coral island, coral reef, cut off, enisle, field, heliport, holm, insular, insularity, insulate, insulated, island group, island-dotted, islanded, islandish, islandlike, islandology, islandy, isle, islet, isleted, isolated, key, landing, landing field, oceanic island, port, reef, sandbank, sandbar, seagirt, segregate, separate, sequester
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