An island (pronounced /ˈaɪlənd/) or isle (/ˈaɪl/) is any piece of land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls are called islets. A key or cay is another name for a small island or islet. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot, /ˈaɪ.ət/. There are two main types of islands: continental islands and oceanic islands. There are also artificial islands. A grouping of geographically and/or geologically related islands is called an archipelago.
The word island comes from Old English ī(e)gland (literally, "watery land"). However, the spelling of the word was modified in the 15th century by association with the etymologically unrelated Old French loanword isle.
There is no standard of size which distinguishes islands from islets and continents.
When defining islands as pieces of land that are surrounded by water, narrow bodies of water like rivers and canals are often, but not always, left out of consideration. For instance, in France the Canal du Midi connects the Garonne river to the Mediterranean Sea, thereby completing a continuous water connection from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. So technically, the land mass that includes the Iberian Peninsula and the part of France that is south of the Garonne River and the Canal du Midi is surrounded by water. For a completely natural example, the Orinoco River splits into two branches near Tamatama, in Amazonas state, Venezuela. The southern branch flows south and joins the Rio Negro, and then the Amazon. Thus, all of the Guianas (Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana) and substantial parts of Brazil and Venezuela are surrounded by (river or ocean) water. These instances are not generally considered islands. However, small pieces of land bordered by rivers are considered islands.
This also helps explain why Africa-Eurasia can be seen as one continuous landmass (and thus technically the biggest island): generally the Suez Canal is not seen as something that divides the land mass in two. The mainland of Australia is often considered the largest island because it is covered on all sides by water while not being connected to another body of land.
On the other hand, an island may still be described as such despite the presence of a land bridge, e.g., Singapore and its causeway or the various Dutch delta Islands, such as IJsselmonde. Some places may even retain "island" in their names after being connected to a larger landmass by a wide land bridge, such as Coney Island. The retaining of the island description may therefore be to some degree simply due to historical reasons - though the land bridges are often of a different geological nature (for example sand instead of stone), and thus the islands remain islands in a more scientific sense as well.
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