Geography Dictionary






























atlas = a collection of maps.

Agriculture = the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

aqueduct = a pipe or passage used for carrying water from a distance.

archipelago = a group of closely scattered islands in a large body of water.

bay = body of water partially surrounded by land, usually with a wide mouth to a larger body of water.

boundary = line separating geographical areas.

canal = artificial waterway.

canyon = deep, narrow valley with steep sides.

cape = point of land that extends into a body of water.

cataract = waterfall.

cave = underground chamber that opens to the surface. Cave entrances can be on land or in water.

channel = waterway between two relatively close land masses.

city = large settlement with a high population density.

cliff = steep wall of rock, earth, or ice.

climate = all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

coast = edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

commercial harbor = a busy port with docks and cargo-handling facilities.

compass rose = symbol indicating the cardinal directions (N, S, E, W).

continent = one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

continental divide = point or area that separates which directions a continent's river systems flow.

dam = structure built across a river or other waterway to control the flow of water.

degree = unit of measurement for latitude and longitude.

delta = the flat, low-lying plain that sometimes forms at the mouth of a river from deposits of sediments.

demographic change = alteration in population size, rate of growth, birthrate, death rate or patterns of migration.

depth = measure of how deep something is.

desert = area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

earthquake = the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.

elevation = height above or below sea level.

environmental pollution = introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

equator = imaginary line around the Earth, another planet, or star running east-west, 0 degrees latitude.

erosion = act in which earth is worn away, often by water, wind, or ice.

fertile crescent = region extending from the eastern Mediterranean coast through Southwest Asia to the Persian Gulf.

flood plain = flat area alongside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.

foothill = hill at the base of a mountain.

forest = ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

frontier = the edge of the settled part of a country.

gap = steep-sided opening through a mountain ridge.

gazeteer = a geographical index or dictionary.

geographer = person who studies places and the relationships between people and their environments.

geography = study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

glacier = mass of ice that moves slowly over land.

globe = scale model of the Earth, or sometimes used to mean the Earth itself.

gorge = deep, narrow valley with steep sides, usually smaller than a canyon.

Great Lakes = largest freshwater bodies in the world, located in the United States and Canada.

gulf = portion of an ocean or sea that penetrates land.

harbor = part of a body of water deep enough for ships to dock.

hemisphere = half of a sphere, or ball-shaped object.

hill = land that rises above its surroundings and has a rounded summit, usually less than 300 meters (1,000 feet).

inlet = small indentation in a shoreline.

international date line = line of longitude at roughly 180 degrees. East of this line is one day earlier than west.

irrigation canal = channel dug between a source of water and crops. Also called an irrigation ditch.

island = a piece of land surrounded by water.

isle = an island, especially a small one.

isthmus = narrow strip of land connecting two larger land masses.

lake = a large body of water surrounded by land.

land bridge = thin strip of land that connects two land masses and may be submerged by water periodically.

landmark = a prominent feature that guides in navigation or marks a site.

landmass = large area of land.

latitude = distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.

legend = explanation of symbols and abbreviations used on a map, also known as a key.

loess highlands = a large plateau in eastern China. Loess is a type of fine, mineral-rich soil that gives the Yellow River its color and provides a layer of fertile soil every time the Yellow River floods its banks.

longitude = distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.

map = a drawing of a particular area such as a city, a country, or a continent.

marsh = wetland area usually covered by a shallow layer of seawater or freshwater.

mesa = broad, flat-topped landform with steep sides.

mountain = landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

mountain pass = a route through a mountain range.

mountain range = series or chain of mountains that are close together.

natural boundary = a natural formation (such as a river, mountain range, or desert) that serves to mark a border between countries or other geographic regions.

natural resource = a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.

north = direction to the left of a person facing the rising sun and the leading direction on a compass.

North Pole = fixed point that, along with the South Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.

oasis = area made fertile by a source of fresh water in an otherwise arid region.

ocean = a very large expanse of sea, in particular, each of the main areas into which the sea is divided geographically.

peninsula = piece of land jutting into a body of water.

physical map = a map whose primary purpose is to show landforms like deserts, mountains and plains.

piedmont = area at the bottom of a mountain.

plain = flat, smooth area at a low elevation.

planet = large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.

plateau = large region that is higher than the surrounding area and relatively flat.

political map = a map that focuses on the borders between countries or states rather than physical features such as mountains and rivers.

population = total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

population map = a map that shows the total number of people or organisms in a particular place.

port = a town or city with a harbor where ships load or unload, especially one where customs officers are stationed.

prime meridian = imaginary line around the Earth running north-south, 0 degrees longitude.

rainforest = a luxuriant, dense forest rich in biodiversity, found typically in tropical areas with consistently heavy rainfall.

rapid = areas of fast-flowing water in a river or stream that is making a slight descent.

ravine = canyon, or deep, narrow valley with steep sides.

region = any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

relief map = a map that shows the hills, valleys, and mountains of a particular area or country.

rice paddy = rice field.

river = a large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea, a lake, or another such stream.

river basin = the area of land drained by a river and its branches.

sahel = transition zone in northern Africa between the Sahara Desert in the north and the savanna ecosystems in the south.

savannah = type of tropical grassland with scattered trees.

scale = tool for measuring distance on a map.

sea = the expanse of salt water that covers most of the earth's surface and surrounds its landmasses.

sea level = base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

shore = coast.

south = direction to the right of a person facing the rising sun.

South Pole = fixed point that, along with the North Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.

special purpose map = a map designed to help you focus on certain details, such as the historical boundaries of a country or empire.

steppe = a large area of flat unforested grassland in southeastern Europe or Siberia.

strait = narrow passage of water that connects two larger bodies of water.

stratefied site = a place where different layers of rock can be seen.

street map = representation of spatial information displaying roads, addresses, and other access points.

subcontinent = large section of a continent.

tectonic plate = massive slab of solid rock made up of Earth's lithosphere (crust and upper mantle). Also called lithospheric plate.

terrace = flat surface created on a steep hillside.

topographic map = map showing natural and human-made features of the land, and marked by contour lines showing elevation.

tributary = stream that feeds, or flows, into a larger stream.

United States territory = an island that belongs to the United States, but does not have the status of a state.  

valley = a low area of land between hills or mountains, typically with a river or stream flowing through it.

vegetation map = a type of map that includes information about the type of vegetation found in a given area.

volcano = an opening in the Earth's crust, through which lava, ash, and gases erupt, and also the cone built by eruptions.

waterfall = flow of water descending steeply over a cliff. Also called a cascade.

weather = the temperature and other outside conditions (such as rain, cloudiness, etc.) at a particular time and place.