How Many Islands are in the World?

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 22, 2022
© Ignacio Moya Coronado/Shutterstock.com
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We bet you’ve wondered how many islands there are in the world at least once in your life. No worries! You’re right where you need to be, as we have the answer to that question and other exciting details on the subject.

We’ll first discuss the definition of an island; then, we’ll move on to how many islands there are in the world, how many of them are inhabited, and how many are uninhabited. You’ll also find out which country has the most islands and which are the biggest and smallest islands in the world. All you’ve got to do is read and enjoy!

What is an island?

An island is a piece of land surrounded by water.

©Pietro Basilico/Shutterstock.com

If we want to establish how many islands there are in the world, we need first to understand what an island is. By definition, an island is a piece of land surrounded by water. Islands can occur in the oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes.

There are six types of islands: tidal, barrier, oceanic, coral, continental, and artificial islands. If the islands are somehow connected in terms of geography and geology, they form an archipelago.

Are continents islands?

Analyzing the information above, we can easily state that a continent is an island as well, right? It’s a piece of land, and it’s surrounded by water. However, as much as we’d like to call continents islands, they’re not. Why? Because they’re extremely large pieces of land. Even the smallest continent on the planet, Australia, is three times bigger than Greenland, the largest island in the world.

There’s a geological explanation for this. A continent is a large landmass on a continental plate. An island, on the other hand, is either an extension of the oceanic crust or belongs to a continental plate that contains a larger landmass and is called a continental island.

Greenland is a continental island, as it sits on the North American Plate. Australia is a large landmass of a continental plate.

How many islands are in the world?

Islands in the Indian Ocean - Mauritius island
There are around 900,000 official islands in the world.

©Myroslava Bozhko/Shutterstock.com

There are around 900,000 official islands in the world. Each country has different criteria for including a piece of land in the official island list. This number consists of all the official reported islands in each country. There may be tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of tiny islands that are unknown or mentioned anywhere.

Given the definitions and classifications mentioned above, it is impossible to state exactly how many islands there are in the world. For example, do we also count the inland islands that sometimes can be just small masses of rocks? 

There isn’t a general rule regarding the size of the landmass when it comes to defining islands. However, it is believed that an island should be large enough to have space for at least a tree and should have the means to support independent vegetation.

An official number of islands our planet hosts doesn’t exist. We can state an approximate number by analyzing the data reported by each country. This data can still be inaccurate. If we were to count them this way, we’d get around 900,000 islands. However, there are many other thousands of small islands not added to the count.

What country has over 7000 islands?

Some countries don’t have any islands at all; some have only a few, while others have hundreds of thousands, with Sweden being at the top of the list. 

8 countries that have over 7000 islands:

  1. Sweden – 267,570
  2. Norway – 239,057
  3. Finland – 178,947
  4. Canada – 62,455
  5. United States – 18,617
  6. Indonesia – 17,508
  7. Australia – 8,222
  8. Philippines – 7,641

Here’s a list of eight countries that have the least number of islands:

  1. Nauru – 1
  2. Dominica – 3
  3. Tuvalu – 9
  4. Albania – 12
  5. Samoa – 12
  6. Cape Verde -15
  7. Azerbaijan – 16
  8. Pakistan – 16

How many inhabited islands are in the world?

Of the approximate number of 900,000 islands globally, around 16,000 are inhabited. Approximately 11% of the world’s total population, over 730 million people, lives on these islands.

Some of these islands are modern and densely populated, while others are very isolated and have very few residents. While Sweden has the most significant number of islands, only 984 of them are inhabited. Indonesia comes first – out of 17,508 islands, 6,000 are inhabited. Next on the list is Chile, with 2,324, then Norway and the Philippines, with 2,000. 

Java, located in Indonesia, is the island with the biggest population, having around 148 million people. Pitcairn Island, located in the Pacific Ocean, is the least-populated island globally, with 50 people living there.

How many uninhabited islands are in the world?

If we were to count uninhabited islands based on the information we’ve already discussed, we’d get a result of around 884,000. How accurate is this number? Unfortunately, we can’t say for sure. While it is easy to calculate the number of inhabited islands, it is almost impossible to know their counterparts.

Even though we have an approximate number of total islands globally, there are certainly many others that haven’t been counted, and those surely are uninhabited.

What are the 5 largest islands in the world?

Greenland
The biggest island in the world is Greenland, with an area of 822,700 square miles.

©Maridav/Shutterstock.com

The biggest island in the world is Greenland, with an area of 822,700 square miles. The island is an autonomous nation within the Kingdom of Denmark. The main tourist attractions in Greenland are the glaciers and the icebergs, which have stunningly beautiful colors. Natural mountainous landscapes and animals such as whales or polar bears are also worth seeing. 

The 5 largest islands in the world are the following: 

  1. Greenland – 822,700 sq mi
  2. New Guinea – 303,381 sq mi
  3. Borneo – 288,869 sq mi
  4. Madagascar – 226,658 sq mi
  5. Baffin Island – 195,928 sq mi

What are the 5 smallest islands in the world?

Just Room Enough Island
Just Room Enough Island is the smallest inhabited island globally.

©BakerJarvis/Shutterstock.com

Just Room Enough Island is the smallest inhabited island globally, measuring 3,300 sq ft (0.0001 sq mi). A wealthy family purchased the island in the 1950s to serve as a holiday home. This island is so small that a step in the wrong direction will get you into the water. The island hosts a house, a tree, a small beach, and some shrubs. 

Simping Island is the smallest uninhabited island, with a total width of 1.23 acres (0.0019 sq mi). It is located in Indonesia and is a very popular tourist attraction. 

The 5 smallest islands in the world are the following:

  1. Just Room Enough Island – 0.0001 sq mi
  2. Simping Island – 0.0019 sq mi
  3. Dangar Island – 0.1 sq mi
  4. Wizard Island – 0.49 sq mi
  5. Bryher Island – 0.51 sq mi


The Featured Image

Tivua Island, Fiji Islands
© Ignacio Moya Coronado/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on real estate, nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How many islands are there in South America?

When it comes to islands, South America has no shortage of them. Made up of around a dozen countries, you can find tens of thousands of islands in South America. Check out: 11 Islands in South America.

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