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Green·land (grēnlənd, -lănd)
An island in the northern Atlantic Ocean off northeast Canada. It is the largest island in the world and lies mostly within the Arctic Circle. Settled by the Norse between the 10th and the 15th century and by the Inuit beginning around the 10th century, Greenland became a Danish colony in the 18th century and was granted home rule in 1979. Nuuk (Godthåb) is the capital.

Green·landic (-lăndĭk) adj.

Word History: How did a glacier-covered island get the name Greenland? In Icelandic sagas written in the 12th century and later, it is told that Eric the Red explored the southeast and southwest coasts of Greenland in AD 983-986. He thought his fellow Icelanders would be more likely to go there if it had an attractive name, and he therefore called it Grænland, Icelandic for "Greenland." This was not exactly a case of false advertising. Greenland was warmer in the 10th century than it is now. There were many islands teeming with birds off its western coast, the sea was excellent for fishing, and the coast of Greenland itself had many fjords where anchorage was good. Moreover, at the head of the fjords there were enormous meadows full of grass, willows, junipers, birch, and wild berries. Icelanders set up colonies in Greenland that thrived for much of the next three hundred years. In the middle of the 14th century, however, the North Atlantic area began to cool significantly. The colonies began to die out, and they finally disappeared at the very beginning of the 15th century. Only the Inuit continued to live on the island as the climate grew progressively colder and the formerly green valleys of Greenland were covered by ice.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.