1. A person who supports a great burden.
2. A book of maps, charts, tables, plates, etc.
3. The top vertebra of the backbone, which supports the skull.
4. A size of drawing paper 26x33 or 26x34 inches.
5. An architectural column in the shape of a man. (Plural: atlantes. Another word for this is telamon. The female equivalent is caryatid.)
After Atlas, a Titan in Greek mythology, who was condemned by Zeus to support the heavens. A book of maps is called an atlas because early books of this kind depicted Atlas on the cover holding the earth on his shoulders. Earliest documented use: 1589.
"Williams’s performance is forced, as if he believes he is an Atlas holding up the whole picture."
Afterlives; Stanley Kauffmann; The New Republic (Washington, DC); Oct 26, 1998.