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

Marin adds that, over time, water began to move in and changed the topography, rendering that farm obsolete and making way for Leidersdorff to purchase the land. Samantha Weiss Hills, Curbed, "Entrepreneur, and beekeeper, Claire Marin opens the door to her home near New York’s Catskill Mountains," 8 July 2019 The Loop will connect five regions of the city, each with distinct geology, topography, plant and animal communities, and history. Laurel Deppen, The Courier-Journal, "'It will be a wedding ring for our city': Everything to know about the Louisville Loop," 28 June 2019 Wild Women Expeditions is launching the Secrets of Sicily Multisport Adventure, a nine-night trip exploring the topography, mythology, and history of Sicily. Necee Regis,, "Here, there, and everywhere," 25 June 2019 The winning team will begin in July to dig deeper into existing conditions — parking, topography, stormwater runoff, lighting, and more — and will hold public listening sessions over 18 months to get feedback. John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press, "New cultural district plan still has long way to go to unify DIA neighborhood," 25 June 2019 And each time, Garvin pointed a camera towards the ground through the open door in an attempt to measure the topography of a rock quarry below—from massive boulders to smooth sheets of sand. Shannon Hall, Scientific American, "Venus, Earth’s Evil Twin, Beckons Space Agencies," 12 June 2019 The new bridge is 1,200 feet long and varies in height from 8 to 10 feet, depending on topography, Garthwait said, allowing bears to pass below. Dan Joling, Anchorage Daily News, "New bridge in Katmai National Park aimed at limiting bear encounters," 16 June 2019 The new bridge is 1,200 feet (366 meters) long and varies in height from 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters), depending on topography, Garthwait said, allowing bears to pass below. Washington Post, "New Alaska park bridge aimed at limiting bear encounters," 14 June 2019 The topography of Tippet Rise is reminiscent of the lunar surface, as seen in the early black-and-white images captured by NASA satellites, an expansive infinite panorama that served as a staging area for exploration and adventure. James Florio, National Geographic, "See the wildest art destination in the West," 21 Mar. 2019

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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Statistics for topography

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for topography

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

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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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