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

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 De Leon said the topography of the land running from Hwy. Melanie Feuk, Houston Chronicle, "Northpark Drive expansion estimate grows to nearly $86 million," 29 June 2018 Jonathan Griffin, an earthquake scientist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said at least part of the answer involves the local topography. James Hookway, WSJ, "Extent of Indonesia Devastation Surprised Earthquake Watchers," 2 Oct. 2018 Asaf Zmirly, an Israeli living in Bangkok, arrived with radios flown in from Israel that could operate within the cave, adjusting to the topography and creating a daisy-chain like network. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post, "‘Time is running out’: Inside the treacherous rescue of boys trapped in a Thai cave," 13 July 2018 The state's huge size and crazy topography make road construction impractical; even Juneau, the capital, can be reached only by sea or air. Anchorage Daily News, "A DIY trip through Alaska’s Inside Passage," 26 May 2018 The mature landscaping and varying topography provide plenty of greenery and hilltop views. Hartford Courant, courant.com, "Property of the Week: Country Walk, Windsor," 29 June 2017

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

11 Jan 2019

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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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