The word atlas was first used in the late 1500s. We will examine the meaning of the word atlas, its interesting origins, and some examples of its use in sentences.

An atlas is a collection of geographical data, primarily a compendium of maps. An atlas may show topological features, geographical boundaries, economic statistics, etc. The geographer Gerardus Mercator published the first atlas in 1595, titled Atlas Sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura. This first use of the word atlas meant a description of the creation of the entire universe. The cover included a picture of Atlas, a Titan in Greek mythology. Atlas was doomed to spend eternity holding the heavens on his shoulders, he is often depicted with a globe of the world on his shoulders. Note that when referring to the mythological figure, the word is capitalized as in Atlas. The plural form of atlas is atlases.


The atlas will help developers decide between two parcels of land — “which one’s a better park and which one’s a better apartment building,” Work explained. (The Santa Barbara Independent)

Among the 400 maps in the collection is a 1472 ‘T-O’ map, the first printed atlas in the world showing how the Earth was arranged according to Christian concepts. (The Daily Mail)

The photograph above shows a page from an atlas commissioned by a Swiss psychologist for a friend who loves geography and maps but is unable to use traditional atlases because he is completely blind. (National Geographic)

Back then maps were created by tracing laboriously from atlases, scanning, then retracing them in vector-drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator. (The Financial Times)

n Greek mythology, Atlas is condemned to hold up the sky for eternity; Tiffany & Co’s 9ft-tall Titan shoulders the weight of a fully operational clock. (The Week)

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