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Archipelago

  • By: Elizabeth R. Congdon
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The term archipelago is most commonly used to refer to a group or chain of islands, although it can also refer to a sea containing a large number of islands. These islands are typically tectonically formed island arcs resulting from volcanoes (e.g., the Galapagos Islands) or hot spots in the lithosphere (e.g., the Hawaiian Islands) but can also form from erosion, deposition, or land elevation. They are usually found in the open ocean, although occasionally archipelagoes are near large landmasses.

The word archipelago is ultimately derived from the Greek arkhon, meaning chief or ruler, and pelagos, meaning sea. The ancient Greek name for the Aegean Sea, which is dotted with small islands, was Aigaion Pelagos, which later became simply Archipelago. Today, the word is used more ...

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