to·​pog·​ra·​phy | \ tə-ˈpä-grə-fē How to pronounce topography (audio) \

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 Israel’s third-largest city, with a population of nearly 300,000, Haifa has an eccentric topography. New York Times, "Where Boars Hog the Streets," 9 Apr. 2021 The dishes can be customized to your preferences, but the key takeaway is this: as with the country’s other regions, Southern Thailand is home to a distinct topography that trickles down to the food. Katie Chang, Forbes, "From Koh Samui To Your Home: Essential Ingredients For Cooking Southern Thai Food," 17 Mar. 2021 That way, the car can adjust its powertrain strategies according to the topography to maximize range. Jens Meiners, Car and Driver, "The 2021 Mercedes-Benz EQA250 Is a Half-Hearted EV," 5 Mar. 2021 The abundance of raptors at North Lookout owes a great deal to topography and wind currents, both of which funnel birds toward the ridgeline. Melissa Groo, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Mrs. Edge Saved the Birds," 16 Mar. 2021 And the fact that topography and luck largely determined the winners appealed to residents’ egalitarian sensibilities. Longreads, "The Fracking Lottery," 21 Dec. 2017 Life in Easttown, Pennsylvania might appear peaceful on the surface but underneath its small town topography lies a web of dangerous and very dark secrets. Dana Feldman, Forbes, "Everyone Has Secrets In HBO’s Kate Winslet-Helmed ‘Mare Of Easttown’," 8 Apr. 2021 McCarthy said mitigation in the area has to be done with a helicopter and is complicated by the area’s topography and the large number of people often in the area. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, "Multiple avalanches and continuing danger will keep Hatcher Pass Road closed through weekend," 8 Apr. 2021 Encountering the wilderness, the travelers are challenged by its varying landforms, topography and vegetation, as well as its clean air and weather changes, each of which is different from the travelers’ home surroundings. Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune, "Nature is good. More is better, especially these days," 19 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for topography

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for topography

Last Updated

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Topography.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for topography



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


to·​pog·​ra·​phy | \ tə-ˈpäg-rə-fē How to pronounce topography (audio) \
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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