The Aegean Sea with its large number of islands is the origin of the term archipelago.
The Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar

An archipelago (/ˌɑːrkəˈpɛləˌɡ/ (audio speaker iconlisten) AR-kə-PEL-ə-goh),[1] sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster, or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands.

Examples of archipelagos include: the Indonesian Archipelago, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Lakshadweep Islands, the Galápagos Islands, the Japanese Archipelago, the Philippine Archipelago, the Maldives, the Balearic Isles, the Bahamas, the Aegean Islands, the Hawaiian Islands, the Canary Islands, Malta, the Azores, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the British Isles, the islands of the Archipelago Sea, and Shetland. They are sometimes defined by political boundaries. For example, the Gulf archipelago off the northeastern Pacific coast forms part of a larger archipelago that geographically includes Washington state's San Juan Islands; while the Gulf archipelago and San Juan Islands are geographically related, they are not technically included in the same archipelago due to manmade geopolitical borders.[2]


The word archipelago is derived from the Ancient Greek ἄρχι-(arkhi-, "chief") and πέλαγος (pélagos, "sea") through the Italian arcipelago. In antiquity, "Archipelago" (from medieval Greek *ἀρχιπέλαγος and Latin archipelagus) was the proper name for the Aegean Sea. Later, usage shifted to refer to the Aegean Islands (since the sea has a large number of islands).

Geographic types

Archipelagos may be found isolated in large amounts of water or neighbouring a large land mass. For example, Scotland has more than 700 islands surrounding its mainland which form an archipelago.

Archipelagos are often volcanic, forming along island arcs generated by subduction zones or hotspots, but may also be the result of erosion, deposition, and land elevation. Depending on their geological origin, islands forming archipelagos can be referred to as oceanic islands, continental fragments, and continental islands.[3]

Oceanic islands

Oceanic islands are mainly of volcanic origin, and widely separated from any adjacent continent. The Hawaiian Islands and Easter Island in the Pacific, and Île Amsterdam in the south Indian Ocean are examples.

Continental fragments

Continental fragments correspond to land masses that have separated from a continental mass due to tectonic displacement. The Farallon Islands off the coast of California are an example.

Continental archipelagos

(c) Victor Belousov, CC BY 3.0
The Archipelago Sea with many islands in southwestern Finland.

Sets of islands formed close to the coast of a continent are considered continental archipelagos when they form part of the same continental shelf, when those islands are above-water extensions of the shelf. The islands of the Inside Passage off the coast of British Columbia and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago are examples.

Artificial archipelagos

Artificial archipelagos have been created in various countries for different purposes. Palm Islands and the World Islands off Dubai were or are being created for leisure and tourism purposes.[4][5] Marker Wadden in the Netherlands is being built as a conservation area for birds and other wildlife.[6]

Further examples

The largest archipelagic state in the world by area, and by population, is Indonesia.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "archipelago". Unabridged (Online). n.d.
  2. ^ US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "What is an archipelago?". Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  3. ^ Whittaker R. J. & Fernández-Palacios J. M. (2007) Island Biogeography: Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. New York, Oxford University Press
  4. ^ McFadden, Christopher (22 December 2019). "7+ Amazing Facts About Dubai's Palm Islands". Interesting Engineering. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  5. ^ Wainwright, Oliver (13 February 2018). "Not the end of The World: the return of Dubai's ultimate folly". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  6. ^ Boffey, Daniel (27 April 2019). "Marker Wadden, the manmade Dutch archipelago where wild birds reign supreme". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  7. ^ Indonesia. The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency of the United States. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2008.

External links

Media files used on this page

Author/Creator: Dan Polansky based on work currently attributed to Wikimedia Foundation but originally created by Smurrayinchester, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
A logo derived from File:WiktionaryEn.svg, a logo showing a 3 x 3 matrix of variously rotated tiles with a letter or character on each tile. The derivation consisted in removing the tiles that form the background of each of the shown characters. File:WiktionaryEn.svg is under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike, created by Smurrayinchester, and attributed to Wikimedia Foundation. This is the version without the wordmark.
Waves in pacifica 1.jpg
Author/Creator: Brocken Inaglory, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Sea Storm in Pacifica, w:California
Accreting coast Image6.svg
Coastal and oceanic landforms. Cuspate foreland, tombolo, spit, bay, lagoon, barrier island.
(c) Kelisi at the English-language Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Map of the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar. This map's source is here, with the uploader's modifications, and the GMT homepage says that the tools are released under the GNU General Public License.

There is a somewhat bigger map of this area, showing places farther north and south. This is not on Wikipedia, but leave a message at my talk page if you would like such a thing, and likewise if you know any further information that ought to go on this map.
Fernando noronha.jpg
Author/Creator: Roberto Garrido from Salvador, Brasil, Licence: CC BY 2.0
Dois Irmãos - Fernando de Noronha, Brazil.
Острова близ Турку. Saaret. By Victor Belousov. - panoramio.jpg
(c) Victor Belousov, CC BY 3.0
Islands off Turku. Kirjalalandet of Pargas in front, Kakskerta and Satava dominate the centre, Rymättylä in the background, Luonnonmaa and the mainland of Naantali left and right of the farther sun reflexions, Hirvensalo breaks the reflexions, Ålön of Pargas in the lower left with some smaller islands. The body of water low in the image is Vapparn, the one in the centre Airisto.
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Pronunciation of the term in US English, recorded by EncycloPetey