[ at-luhs ]
/ ˈæt ləs /
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noun, plural at·las·es for 1-3, at·lan·tes [at-lan-teez] /ætˈlæn tiz/ for 5.
a bound collection of maps.
a bound volume of charts, plates, or tables illustrating any subject.
Anatomy. the first cervical vertebra, which supports the head.
a size of drawing or writing paper, 26 × 34 or 33 inches.
Also called telamon. Architecture. a sculptural figure of a man used as a column.
Do you know the difference between everyday US and UK terminology? Test yourself with this quiz on words that differ across the Atlantic.
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In the UK, COTTON CANDY is more commonly known as…
Compare caryatid.

Origin of atlas

1580–90 in sense “prop, support”; as name for a collection of maps, said to be from illustrations of Atlas supporting the globe in early books of this kind

Other definitions for atlas (2 of 2)

[ at-luhs ]
/ ˈæt ləs /

noun, plural At·las·es for 2, 4.
Classical Mythology. a Titan, son of Iapetus and brother of Prometheus and Epimetheus, condemned to support the sky on his shoulders: identified by the ancients with the Atlas Mountains.
a person who supports a heavy burden; a mainstay.
Charles Angelo Siciliano, 1894–1972, U.S. body-building advocate, born in Italy.
a liquid-propellant booster rocket, originally developed as the first U.S. ICBM, used with Agena or Centaur upper stages to launch satellites into orbit around the earth and send probes to the moon and planets; also used to launch the Mercury spacecraft into orbit around the earth.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use atlas in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for atlas (1 of 2)

/ (ˈætləs) /

a collection of maps, usually in book form
a book of charts, graphs, etc, illustrating aspects of a subjectan anatomical atlas
anatomy the first cervical vertebra, attached to and supporting the skull in manCompare axis 1
plural atlantes architect another name for telamon
a standard size of drawing paper, 26 × 17 inches

Word Origin for atlas

C16: via Latin from Greek; first applied to maps, from depictions of Atlas supporting the heavens in 16th-century collections of maps

British Dictionary definitions for atlas (2 of 2)

/ (ˈætləs) /

Greek myth a Titan compelled to support the sky on his shoulders as punishment for rebelling against Zeus
a US intercontinental ballistic missile, also used in launching spacecraft
astronomy a small satellite of Saturn, discovered in 1980
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

Cultural definitions for atlas (1 of 2)


A bound collection of maps. Atlases are named after the Greek god Atlas.

Cultural definitions for atlas (2 of 2)


In classical mythology, a Titan famous for his strength. After the defeat of the Titans by Zeus, Atlas was condemned to support the Earth and sky on his shoulders for eternity.

notes for Atlas

Since the sixteenth century, pictures of Atlas and his burden have been used as decorations on maps. Accordingly, the word atlas is used for a book of maps.

notes for Atlas

An “Atlas” or “atlas” is an incredibly strong person or one who carries an enormous burden.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.