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A 1791 engraving of the Spanish explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano (1476–1526), who completed the first periplus, or circumnavigation, of the Earth

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From Latin periplūs, from Ancient Greek περίπλους (períplous, circumnavigation), from περί (perí, around) + πλέω (pléō, I sail).


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɛɹɪplʌs/
  • Hyphenation: pe‧ri‧plus


periplus (plural peripli or periploi or peripluses)

  1. A circumnavigation; a sea voyage around a coastline.
    • 1828, Viscount de Chateaubriand [François-René de Chateaubriand], “Preface: Sketch of Voyages and Travels”, in Travels in America and Italy, [...] In Two Volumes, volume I, London: Henry Colburn, New Burlington Street, OCLC 11267969, page 39:
      In the great Ocean, California, its gulph, and the Vermilion Sea were known to Cortes [Hernán Cortés]; [Juan Rodríguez] Cabrillo proceeded along the coast of New California as far as the 43d degree of north latitude; Galbi advanced to the 57th degree. Amidst so many real peripluses, [Alonso del Castillo] Maldonado, Juan de Fuca, and Admiral de Fonte, placed their chimerical voyages.
    • 1884, Charles Deane, “The Voyages of the Cabots”, in Justin Winsor, editor, Narrative and Critical History of America, volume III, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, OCLC 833524097, page 2:
      On the spot where he [Sebastian Cabot] landed he planted a large cross, with the flags of England and of St. Mark, and took possession for the King of England. If the statement be true that he coasted three hundred leagues, he may have made a periplus of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, returning home through the Straits of Belle Isle.
    • 1978, Raymond Queneau, Michael Edwards, editor, Raymond Queneau (Prospice; 8), Portree, Isle of Skye: Aquila Pub. Co., →ISBN, ISSN 0308-2776, page 12:
      Yes sir, I have seen vessels leaving there for distant peripluses – yes yes: peripluses. Some were going to the poles, and others to the antipodes. Whereas I – I have never even set foot on the boat that goes over the estuary to Trouville.
    • 1997, Manfred Pfister, “‘Sailing after Knowledge’: The Logbook Aesthetics of Pound's Cantos”, in Andreas Fischer, Martin Heusser, and Thomas Herrmann, editors, Aspects of Modernism: Studies in Honour of Max Nänny, Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, →ISBN, page 98:
      All the four books and the photograph are, in various degrees of literality or metaphoricity, about a periplus, the circumnavigation of an entire world, be that Homer's Mediterranean, Dante [Alighieri]'s hell, purgatory and paradise, [James] Joyce's Dublin, or the cosmos of [Ezra Pound's] The Cantos, stretching across all the continents and all periods of history, and they are, therefore, the logbook accounts of such a periplus.
  2. A record of such a voyage.
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