- A self-governing island group in the central Pacific Ocean. Inhabited by Micronesian peoples, the islands were sighted by Spanish explorers in the early 16th century and were governed by Spain and Germany until 1920, when they became a Japanese mandate. From 1947 they were part of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, during which time the United States carried out nuclear tests on Enewetak and Bikini atolls. The islands became self-governing in 1979 and attained free association status with the United States in 1986. Majuro is the capital. Population: 61,800.
American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright (c) 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.