atlas

Definitions

General Science

Medical

  • noun the top vertebra in the spine, which supports the skull and pivots on the axis or second vertebra

Sports

  • noun the topmost vertebra of the neck, above the axis, that connects the spine to the skull

Origin & History of “atlas”

In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan who as a punishment for rebelling against the gods was forced to carry the heavens on his shoulders. Hence when the term was first used in English it was applied to a ‘supporter’: ‘I dare commend him to all that know him, as the Atlas of Poetry’, Thomas Nashe on Robert Greene’s Menaphon 1589. In the 16th century it was common to include a picture of Atlas with his onerous burden as a frontispiece in books of maps, and from this arose the habit of referring to such books as atlases (the application is sometimes said to have arisen specifically from such a book produced in the late 16th century by the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594), published in England in 1636 under the title Atlas).

Atlas also gave his name to the Atlantic ocean. In ancient myth, the heavens were said to be supported on a high mountain in northwestern Africa, represented as, and now named after, the Titan Atlas. In its Greek adjectival form Atlantikós (later Latin Atlanticus) it was applied to the seas immediately to the west of Africa, and gradually to the rest of the ocean as it came within the boundaries of the known world.
http://www.dictionarycentral.com/definition/atlas.html