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

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 The 7,006-foot runway sits 7,800 feet above sea level, and, because of the topography, pilots are sometimes required to make high-angle descents. Peter Greenberg, Town & Country, "Unfriendly Skies," 7 Feb. 2014 Ultimately, though, the topography of the camps is the biggest problem. Kristen Gelineau, Fox News, "Nowhere to run: Rohingya hunker down as monsoon arrives," 17 July 2018 The West End seems quite separate from Downtown, divided by Central Parkway or I-75 and with a very different urban topography. Polly Campbell, Cincinnati.com, "Bars and restaurants near West End pretty OK with a stadium, unsurprisingly. Where will fans go?," 25 Jan. 2018 Fire officials said the county has become fire prone because of its topography: mostly mountainous with brush and forests that have in some places been left dry and dead by years of drought. Jim Carlton, WSJ, "Giant Wildfires Become Way Of Life in One Northern California County," 1 July 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

13 Dec 2018

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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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