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

The site slopes to the south with a topography difference of about 10 feet. Phil Diehl, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Parking structure approved for Tri-City Medical Center," 11 July 2018 Like any land mass, the Helheim Glacier has a topography all its own. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "A Stunning Video of a Greenland Iceberg Collapse," 10 July 2018 The map below is huge, but not very detailed: No topography. Alexandra Lange, Curbed, "Gateway to what?," 28 June 2018 The topography near the County Fire continued to give fire crews trouble, but the largest blaze of the season hadn't grown significantly in a few days. Jordan Cutler-tietjen, sacbee, "Deadly Klamathon fire continues to grow near Oregon border," 8 July 2018 Already the dance traditions of individual villages, separated by mountainous topography had been unique to each town. Roger Catlin, Smithsonian, "How Armenian Dance Adapted Over Time and Place," 26 June 2018 The climate offers the transition of seasons, and the topography offers a variety of attractive rolling hills and valleys. Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati.com, "Greater Cincinnati Collegiate Connection Scholarship Essay Contest 2018 “Why Greater Cincinnati?”," 22 June 2018 Digging down, all the way down, in some cases, to the black tub that holds the sand of this part of the exhibit, the topography interactive. Kevin Dupzyk, Popular Mechanics, "Unseen Oceans: How the American Museum of Natural History Builds a New Exhibit," 21 June 2018 Then continue north on Highway 23 into downtown Spring Green, taking in the beautiful topography, Taliesin and the Wisconsin River. Jennifer Rude Klett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "When visiting Spring Green's Taliesin or American Players Theatre, stop here, too," 29 June 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

20 Sep 2018

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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

: 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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