Difference Between Peninsula and Island

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: October 01, 2023


Difference Between Peninsula and Island

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Most people are obsessed with islands and peninsulas, as they are different from the standard landforms. The most popular island many people know of is Greenland – the largest island. However, uninhabited islands are far more intriguing purely because of the unique and diverse species found there. It is fascinating to study how the various species adapt to their surroundings in the absence of predators and competitors (nope, do not think of Life of Pi. The wildlife found here is not strange to that extent.).

As for peninsulas, the largest one is the Arabian Peninsula. Peninsulas are connected to the mainland through an isthmus (yes, it is a word, meaning a narrow piece of land connecting two areas across a water body). The most famous example of an isthmus is the Isthmus of Corinth, which connects the Peloponnese Islands (situated in Southern Greece) to the mainland.

Peninsula Vs. Island

An island is surrounded by water on all four sides, whereas water surrounds a peninsula only on three sides. Moreover, a peninsula becoming an island is much more probable due to rising sea levels than the reverse (tied islands are not the same as peninsulas).

Difference Between Peninsula And Island In Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonPeninsulaIsland
AccessPeople may enter a peninsula through land, air, or water transport.Islands can be entered via either air or water transport.
GroupsPeninsulas are always a single landform.Islands may be found in groups.
InhabitationPeninsulas are found in all continents, and people inhabit them.Islands are usually uninhabited; however, some islands have heavy tourist attractions.
Origin WordThe term peninsula originated from the Latin word paeninsula (means ‘almost island’).The term island originated from the Middle English word iland.
Connection to MainlandIts fourth side is not surrounded by water and connects to the mainland.An island is entirely isolated and does not connect with the mainland.

What Is A Peninsula?

A peninsula is a landform connected to the mainland on one side and surrounded by water on all others. Its size ranges from small to country-sized (India, Arabia, etc. are peninsulas). Peninsulas may form when volcanoes erupt magma near shallow water. A well-known example is the Alaskan Peninsula. Lighthouses are often built on small peninsula to warn sailors that they are nearing land. An interesting fact about peninsulas is they are found in every continent of the world. The Horn of Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Cape York Peninsula are famous examples of peninsulas.

Glacial melting, land erosion due to increased sea level, and movements of tectonic plates result in the formation of peninsulas. England’s Lizard Peninsula, Italy’s Monte Argentario, South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula, and Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula are breathtaking peninsulas worth visiting. They may not seem as attractive as tropical islands, but they are better than the islands in so many ways. The peace and quiet of the peninsulas along with sociable creatures (including man and animals), enhance the appeal it holds for people. Who does not need a break from the curveballs life keeps throwing at them?

Largest Peninsulas In The World

Some of the largest peninsulas found in the world are as follows:

Arabian Peninsula

It comprises Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Iraq, and Jordan. It formed due to the rifting of the Red Sea several million years ago. The Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, Levant, Mesopotamia, Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean surround it on the northeast, southeast, and southwest borders. This peninsula plays a significant role due to its large reserves of natural gas and oil. However, dunes cover the majority of the Arabian Peninsula (makes one think of the title song of Aladdin, doesn’t it?).

Deccan Peninsula

India’s Deccan Plateau is loosely defined as a peninsula. It is historically significant as many incredible dynasties in Indian history emerged there. Dravidian languages Kannada and Telugu are the predominant languages here, followed by Tamil in the southern regions of the Deccan Plateau. This peninsula is rich in minerals and precious stones. Chromite, mica, coal, asbestos, uranium, etc. are some examples of minerals found here.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa/Somali Peninsula is the fourth largest peninsula in the world. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia form a horn-shaped landmass, earning the name Horn of Africa. The world’s largest population of camels is found here (wait, what? Why are not more people aware of this?)! Moreover, over 220 species of mammals exist here. People can find around 100 freshwater fish species and 5,000 plant species in the peninsula, and most of the species found are endemic to it (who knew the Horn of Africa was rich in biodiversity?).

Alaskan Peninsula

The Alaskan Peninsula separates the Pacific Ocean from an arm of the Bering Sea – Bristol Bay. Caribou, moose, sockeye salmon, wolves, etc. are abundant here. Moreover, bears are a common sight in this peninsula due to the abundance of salmons (why go anywhere else when one gets an all-you-can-eat buffet in one place?). Several villages in this peninsula, such as King Cove, Cold Bay, Port Moller, and Perryville depend on the fishing industry to make a living.

Scandinavian Peninsula

This peninsula comprises the major parts of Sweden, Norway, and Finland’s northwestern area. A part that previously belonged to Denmark is now considered a part of Sweden (ouch! That must have hurt the Danes.). The Scandinavian Island is the largest in Europe, as it is bigger than the Italian, Balkan, and Iberian Peninsulas. The Norwegian Sea in the west, the Barents Sea in the north, and the North Sea in the southwest (sounds peculiar, but it’s true) form its borders. It is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land (perfect example for the textbook definition of a peninsula, isn’t it?).

What Is An Island?

Islands are cut off from the mainland and are of two types: continental and oceanic. The continental islands lie on a continental shelf (a continent’s submerged part). Great Britain, Greenland, Barbados, Ireland, Tasmania, Sicily, and so on are examples of this type. The oceanic islands do not lie on continental shelves. They may be of volcanic or tectonic origin. Atoll refers to an island formed from a coral reef over a submerged and eroded volcanic island; typically, they are ring-shaped. Maldives in the Indian Ocean and Line Islands in the Pacific Ocean fall into this category.

Microcontinental islands form when a continent rifts. Madagascar is an example of this island type. Volcanic oceanic islands form in several ways. They form when the subduction of one tectonic plate under another occurs (Tonga in the Pacific Ocean), an oceanic rift surfaces (Iceland – the second largest volcanic island), or over a hotspot (Hawaiian Islands). Tropical islands are a magnet for tourists due to their socio-economic diversity. Many island’s economy significantly depends on international tourism (Mauritius, Puerto Rico, Maldives, Hawaii, etc.).

Tidal islands are a type of continental island whose link to the mainland is submerged at high tide. Barrier islands may be continental or coral islands and form parallel to coastlines. Usually, a lagoon separates them from the mainland. They form due to glacial melting – the sea level increases or water surrounds moraines (piles of debris composed of rock, gravel, and soil left by glaciers) on all sides.

De-islanding is the process of bridging or linking islands to the mainland through other means. Building causeways to ensure fixed transport is an example. It is necessary to note that only landmasses naturally cut off from the mainland are classified as islands. A landform does not become an island if a man-made canal separates it from the mainland. In addition to naturally-formed islands, artificial islands built using natural or artificial materials exist.

Some natural islands are enlarged artificially. A famous example is the extension of the western shore of Vasilyevsky Island in St. Petersburg. However, those built on pre-existing land surrounded by water and above the water level at low tide and below the water level at high tide are not islands. Though water surrounds them on all four sides, they cannot be legally classified as islands. Japan has some impressive artificial islands such as Port Island, Kansai International Airport (ooh, an island was built to function as an airport? Interesting, wonder how people came up with that idea), and Rokko Island.

Lake islands (any landmass within a lake) may form an archipelago – a group of islands or an island chain. They form when a lakeshore’s part breaks off due to erosion. These islands may have formed due to earthquakes, volcanic, or meteoric activities. Moreover, they may have formed due to rising water levels due to either natural or artificial reasons. Flevopolder, Flamingo Island, and the Island of IJburg are some examples of artificial lake islands.

Other Names For Tiny Islands

Though technically an island, tiny ones may be called an islet, skerry, cays/keys, or holm.


These are small, unnamed islands with minimal to no vegetation. As such, they are not favorable for humans to live in. Islets may be made of hard coral, rocks, or sand and exist in sizeable water bodies. Some people use other terms to refer to an islet. The term ‘ait’ is used to refer to the river island in the River Thames. In Scotland, the term ‘Inch’ is used to refer to small islands (for example, Inch Kenneth and Inchkeith). Motu refers to reef islets, and Rock refers to uninhabited islands made of exposed rocks (Albino Rock in Australia is an example).


Skerries are small, rocky reefs, islets, or islands. They are too small for human habitation and act as resting places for seals and birds. Skerries are, sometimes, low sea stacks (steep, vertical rock columns in the sea). They mostly form at the outlet of fjords (narrow inlets with steep sides or cliffs). Finland’s southwestern coast has an archipelago of skerries. Minina Skerries in the Kara Sea and Sumsky Skerries in the White Sea are some examples of Skerries.

Holms And Cays

Holm refers to small round islets or islands. Denmark’s Bornholm, Germany’s Dänholm, Sweden’s Stockholm, and England’s Holm Island are examples of holms (who else keeps hearing Jude Law’s Watson calling out ‘Holmes’ even though it is clearly spelled ‘holm’?). Cays are the sandy islands on a coral reef’s surface. They form in tropical environments and are found throughout the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans and the Caribbean Sea. These islands form due to sediment accumulation.

Main Difference Between Peninsula And Island (In Points)

  • Peninsulas form as a result of continental drift, marine sediment, glacial erosion or meltwater, marine transgressions, etc., or a combination of these factors. On the other hand, oceanic islands have volcanic origins, and continental islands form when the land linking them to the mainland erodes.
  • Peninsulas vary from tiny to significantly large. However, tiny peninsulas (generally more than 33,000 square kilometers) are still larger than tiny islands, as the peninsulas are termed tiny only in relation to the other peninsulas and not in the general sense.
  • Islands are much more peaceful than peninsulas as they are mostly uninhabited. However, crash landing in one is not as adventurous as it is hyped up to be in movies. People will be much safer in peninsulas and can have fun, too.
  • Hunting sea and land animals is possible in peninsulas, whereas land animals are less common in islands. The reason is that animals cannot arrive at the island via land after it forms. They have to reach it via water by swimming or riding natural rafts – a rare occurrence.
  • The species in islands are more docile than the ones found in peninsulas. They may even become larger or smaller than normal. The former phenomenon is called island gigantism (terrifying but intriguing), and the latter is referred to as island dwarfism (not worth mulling over. After all, comparatively speaking, they do not present much danger.).


Briefly put, peninsulas and islands are landforms that differ in their water boundaries. Surviving on an island is challenging, exacting, and demanding (watched the film Castaway? At least Tom Hanks’ character escaped. That is not a given for others though.). On the other hand, peninsulas are peaceful, and people can enjoy gaining new experiences. Therefore, people should pray that they end up on a peninsula and not an island if they are ever unfortunate enough to crash land. However, volcanic high islands have fresh groundwater. So, that is one less worry for people stranded on islands.


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  • https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/island/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_ecology
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peninsula
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcanic_island
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_island
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islet
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skerry
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holm_(island)
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cay
  • https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/peninsula/
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  • https://eartheclipse.com/science/geography/peninsula-landform-formation-examples.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabian_Peninsula
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deccan_Plateau
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horn_of_Africa
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Peninsula
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavian_Peninsula


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"Difference Between Peninsula and Island." Diffzy.com, 2023. Tue. 28 Nov. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-peninsula-and-island>.

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