• synonyms


[tuh-rah-wuh, tar-uh-wah, tah-rah-wah]
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  1. one of the Gilbert Islands, in the central Pacific; capital, since 1979, of the independent nation of Kiribati: U.S. victory over Japanese forces after severe fighting, November, 1943. 14 sq. mi. (36 sq. km).


[keer-ee-bah-tee, keer-uh-bas]
  1. a republic in the central Pacific Ocean, on the equator, comprising 33 islands. 263 sq. mi. (681 sq. km). Capital: Tarawa.
Formerly Gilbert Islands.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tarawa

Historical Examples

  • He had not the faintest apprehensions about the Tarawa matter.

    Wild Justice: Stories of the South Seas

    Lloyd Osbourne

  • A trader on Tarawa, heated by an eager rivalry, brought many cases of gin.

    In the South Seas

    Robert Louis Stevenson

  • The fact of the Tarawa having been built in America accounted for the crew, boy Jim and all, being such good guessers.

  • And it was not the only such affair in which he had been concerned—not on Tarawa alone, but on the neighbouring lagoon of Maiana.

  • A year ago, our conquest of Tarawa was a little more than a month old.

British Dictionary definitions for tarawa


  1. an atoll in Kiribati, occupying a chain of islets surrounding a lagoon in the W central Pacific: the capital of Kiribati, Bairiki, is on this atoll. Pop: 45 989 (2005)


  1. an independent republic in the W Pacific: comprises 33 islands including Banaba (Ocean Island), the Gilbert and Phoenix Islands, and eight of the Line Islands; part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands until 1975; became self-governing in 1977 and gained full independence in 1979 as the Republic of Kiribati; a member of the Commonwealth. Official languages: English, I-Kiribati (Gilbertese) is widely spoken. Religion: Christian majority. Currency: Australian dollar. Capital: Bairiki islet, in Tarawa atoll. Pop: 103 248 (2013 est). Area: 684 sq km (264 sq miles)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for tarawa


island nation in the Pacific, formerly Gilbert Islands and named for Capt. Thomas Gilbert, who arrived there 1788 after helping transport the first shipload of convicts to Australia. At independence in 1979 it took the current name, which represents the local pronunciation of Gilbert. Christmas Island, named for the date it was discovered by Europeans, is in the chain and now goes by Kiritimati, likewise a local pronunciation of the English name.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper