- Word History, Word Explorer
|part of speech:
||(cap.) in Greek mythology, a Titan condemned to support the heavens on his shoulders.
||(cap.) any person who carries a heavy burden.
||a book of maps, tables, charts, or the like.
We consulted an atlas to find lakes near our destination.
||the top vertebra of the neck.
||an architectural column in the form of a man.
Greek mythology tells of a giant whose punishment was to hold up the universe on his shoulders. This giant's name was Atlas
. Artists drew pictures of Atlas holding up a globe that was meant to be the heavens. In the 1600s, a mapmaker named Mercator used such a picture on the cover of his book of maps. A collection of maps became known as an "atlas."