There are 2 main definitions of atlas in English:

Share this entry

atlas 1

Pronunciation: /ˈatləs/


1 (plural atlases) A book of maps or charts: I looked in the atlas to find a map of Italy a road atlas
More example sentences
  • Since they were all manuscript, no two charts or atlases were alike in size, decoration or cartographic content.
  • Picture one of those mileage charts you get in the front of road atlases.
  • By 1650, two-thirds of the continent's coast were thus widely known not only in Europe, but also wherever Dutch charts, atlases, and globes were distributed.
1.1A book of illustrations or diagrams on any subject: Atlas of Surgical Operations
More example sentences
  • And, finally, he published his illustrated obstetric atlas in 1754.
  • One crucial element was the emergence in the eighteenth century of a new genre of scientific publication: the illustrated obstetric atlas.
  • Illustrated by Gerard de Lairesse, Bidloo's atlas shows the actual tools and arrangements of the dissecting table.
2 (plural atlases) (also atlas vertebra) Anatomy The topmost vertebra of the backbone, articulating with the occipital bone of the skull.
Example sentences
  • There is a well-developed atlas and the caudal vertebrae can be distinguished from the trunk vertebrae by the presence of hemal arches.
  • Neither the atlas nor the second vertebra bears ribs.
  • The atlas may be fused with the occipital bone in varying degrees.
3 (plural atlantes /atˈlantēz/) Architecture A stone carving of a male figure, used as a column to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building.
Example sentences
  • Among its wealth of neoclassical details are the legs in the shape of inverted obelisks, the torsos of draped and winged caryatids and atlantes, and the allegorical figure (possibly Summer).
  • Meanwhile, the caryatids and atlantes just watch, waiting.
  • He has designed atlantes to support the temple at the top of John Simpson's towering column, and an art-deco-inspired grouping of gods and titans for the pediment midway up Franck Lohsen McCrery's building.


Late 16th century (originally denoting a person who supported a great burden): via Latin from Greek Atlas, the god who held up the pillars of the universe and whose picture appeared at the front of early atlases.

  • Atlas was a Titan, or giant, in Greek mythology who was punished for taking part in a rebellion against the gods by being made to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. He gave his name to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, which are so high that they were imagined to be holding up the sky. A collection of maps is called an atlas because early atlases were published with an illustration of Atlas bearing the world on his back on the title page. The first person to use the word in this way was probably the map-maker Gerardus Mercator in the late 16th century. The Atlantic Ocean also gets its name from Atlas. The word Atlantic originally referred to the mountains, then to the sea near the west African coast, and later to the whole ocean.

Words that rhyme with atlas

fatless, hatless
Share this entry

There are 2 main definitions of atlas in English:

Share this entry

Atlas 2

Pronunciation: /ˈatləs/
Greek Mythology
One of the Titans, who was punished for his part in their revolt against Zeus by being made to support the heavens. He became identified with the Atlas Mountains.
Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.