The main difference between isle and island is that isle is the archaic form of referring to land surrounded by the sea while the island is the standard form of referring to land surrounded by the sea.
Both isle and island refer to an area of land surrounded by the sea. Nevertheless, the isle is often considered as a piece of land which is smaller in size to that of an island. For example, Isle of Man is a popular isle belonging to the British Isles while some of the island nations are Japan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, etc.
Key Areas Covered
What is an Isle?
The origin of the word isle is from the Latin word ‘Isla’, which means something in the sea. Isle is an area of land surrounded by the sea. In other words, the isle is an island or peninsula, but it is especially a small one. However, isle can be highlighted as the archaic term used to describe a geographical land surrounding the sea. Therefore, an isle in a way bears a literary significance, where many writers, especially travel writers, tend to replace the term island to isle to create a paradise image in the reader’s mind.
The Isle of Man, Isle of Wight and Isle of Anglesey are some well-known isles that belong to the British Isles.
Furthermore, the term isle expresses proper nouns indicating place names such as Belle Isle, Garden Isle, Pine Purple Isle, Isle of Palms, and Isle Royale.
What is an Island
Island is the standard term used to refer to a geographical land area surrounded by the sea on either side or a piece of land entirely surrounded by the sea. Due to its geographical nature, an island can serve as an isolated or a detached place to an escapist or even as a fortress in a war.
Isle and Island, basically, mean the same. However, with regard to the size of these two land areas, the lands known by the word island are generally larger than to isles. There are a number of islands in the world such as Maldives, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, Tasmania, Indonesia, Japan, Seychelles etc. Among them, Greenland is the largest island while Bishop Rock is the smallest island in the world.
Moreover, most people consider Australia as an island, since it is also surrounded by the sea on all sides. However, due to its size and its placement in a different tectonic plate and the biological distinction, it is considered the smallest continent in the world.
The spectacular landscape in these islands, with the diverse vegetation surrounded by the long coastlines, has become the major holiday destinations for almost everyone.
Difference Between Isle and Island
Isle: Archaic form to refer to a piece of land surrounded by the sea
Island: Standard word to refer to a piece of land surrounded by the sea
Isle: Usually considered smaller in size
Island: Usually larger in size than an isle
The main difference between isle and island is that isle is the archaic form of referring to land surrounded by the sea while the island is the standard form of referring to the same. Therefore, both these terms refer to the same geographical entity.
1. Peters, Pam. The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
1. “ISS034-E-059090 Isle of Man” By Expedition 34 CrewI – Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center: Julian Herzog – ISS034-E-059090 (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Bedarra Island aerial” By Banfield1 at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “Sri Lanka relief location map” By Uwe Dedering – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia