topography

noun
to·​pog·​ra·​phy | \ tə-ˈpä-grə-fē \

Definition of topography

1a : the art or practice of graphic delineation in detail usually on maps or charts of natural and man-made features of a place or region especially in a way to show their relative positions and elevations
b : topographical surveying
2a : the configuration of a surface including its relief and the position of its natural and man-made features
b : the physical or natural features of an object or entity and their structural relationships the topography of human chromosomes the political topography of our time

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Did You Know?

Topography combines top- with graph-, a root meaning "write" or "describe". The topography of the Sahara Desert features shifting sand dunes and dry, rocky mountains. A topographic (or topo) map not only shows the surface features of a region but also indicates the contours and approximate altitude of every location, by means of numerous curving lines, each indicating a single elevation. In other words, it shows a "three-dimensional" picture on a two-dimensional surface. Topo maps are commonly used by hikers, surveyors, government workers, and engineers, among other people.

Examples of topography in a Sentence

a map of the topography of the coastline shows a significant loss of wetlands

Recent Examples on the Web

Greene, a researcher with Moss Landing Marine Labs in California who now lives in the San Juans, is an expert in underwater topography, and has mapped the entire Salish Sea floor. Katherine Long, The Seattle Times, "In a five-person submarine, scientists in Friday Harbor unravel the mysteries of the Salish Sea," 16 Sep. 2018 On the ground That grounding line migrates seaward or landward as the glacier advances or retreats—processes that are controlled by water temperatures and currents, air temperatures, snowfall, and the topography of the bedrock beneath the ice. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Satellite tracking of Antarctica expands view of glacial patchwork," 6 Apr. 2018 Kundig admired the land’s gentle topography and its agricultural past. Sarah Medford, WSJ, "Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky Dreamed of a Modern Home in a Pastoral Setting," 11 Dec. 2018 The blaze that broke out July 27 initially spread quickly because of what officials said was a perfect combination of weather, rugged topography and abundant brush and timber turned to tinder by years of drought. Fox News, "Battling 18 blazes, California may face worst fire season," 9 Aug. 2018 Alaska's wilderness is world-renowned, with diverse flora and fauna, rugged topography and the potential to glimpse animals rarely seen anywhere else. Bailey Berg, Anchorage Daily News, "Make the most of your trip with these hikes near Anchorage," 2 May 2018 Those differences allow the scientists to map subglacial topography. Daniela Hernandez, WSJ, "Climate’s Big Unknown: What’s Happening Beneath Antarctica’s Ice?," 29 Dec. 2018 As the storm continues to track toward western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina, heavy rains in the mountains could trigger mudslides due to the region’s topography, Cline added. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Hurricane Florence could bring life-threatening floods, conditions to areas away from coastline as well," 13 Sep. 2018 The Government Accountability Office said costs can vary considerably based on the slope and topography, land acquisition costs and other factors. Fox News, "Congress watchdog: Border wall may cost more, take longer," 6 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'topography.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of topography

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for topography

Middle English topographie, from Late Latin topographia, from Greek, from topographein to describe a place, from topos place + graphein to write — more at carve

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Last Updated

8 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for topography

The first known use of topography was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for topography

topography

noun

English Language Learners Definition of topography

technical
: the art or science of making maps that show the height, shape, etc., of the land in a particular area
: the features (such as mountains and rivers) in an area of land

topography

noun
to·​pog·​ra·​phy | \ tə-ˈpäg-rə-fē \
plural topographies

Medical Definition of topography

1 : the physical or natural features of an object or entity and their structural relationships the topography of the abdomen the topography (size and fluorescent staining intensity) of human chromosomesScience News

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