: 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
: the configuration of a surface including its relief and the position of its natural and man-made features
: 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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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.
a map of the topography of the coastline shows a significant loss of wetlands
Recent Examples on the WebUnlike flooding, smoke’s movement through a community can’t easily be guessed by mapping the local topography, and it can’t be blocked or diverted.—Christopher Flavelle, New York Times, 12 Feb. 2024 From the expansive terrace of the main building, views stretch out to the glittering blue of the Mediterranean Sea, and on a clear day, beyond to the rugged topography of the Saronic Islands.—Liam Hess, Vogue, 7 Feb. 2024 Atlas is picking up a set of car struts—an object with extremely complicated topography that weighs around 30 pounds—so there's a lot to calculate.—Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, 6 Feb. 2024 Matt Salerno, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Phoenix, said Phoenix won’t get the same storms and rain totals as much of Southern California simply because of the topography.—Caralin Nunes, The Arizona Republic, 6 Feb. 2024 The maps display the natural river courses shaped by topography, but other factors such as human activity also dictate where and how a river meanders.—Shi En Kim, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Jan. 2024 Luckily, continental shift in the past 50 million years has changed the topography and atmospheric circulation in a way that thins this blanket.—Matt Simon, WIRED, 29 Nov. 2023 Each of this state’s six distinct regions bring their own unique housing challenges due to geography, topography, climate, etc., but those also line up with America’s diverse geographic regions, meaning solutions developed in Arkansas can scale nationally.—Ryan Anderson, arkansasonline.com, 11 Feb. 2024 There are marine and estuary topographies, cypresses and mangroves.—Evie Carrick, Travel + Leisure, 4 Feb. 2024 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'topography.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Middle English topographie, from Late Latin topographia, from Greek, from topographein to describe a place, from topos place + graphein to write — more at carve