: 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 WebThe heavier water then sinks under the downward pull of gravity, and the flows gradually form karst topographies.—Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 14 Nov. 2023 Central Maine Power spokesman Jonathan Breed argued that the company has resolved billing and customers service problems that earned it millions of dollars in fines from the state, and that the challenging topography of Maine accounts for the high number of outages.—Evan Halper, Washington Post, 4 Nov. 2023 Based on the topography of the landscape, glaciers crept down and carved into the river valleys, widening them slightly, says study co-author Stewart Jamieson, a professor of geography at Durham University in England.—Stephanie Pappas, Scientific American, 3 Nov. 2023 Researchers knew a lot about the topography underneath the ice sheet prior to the development of this technique by flying planes equipped with radar to see the shape of the landscape underneath, Jamieson said.—Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 24 Oct. 2023 These discoveries showed that first responders needed a better understanding of how the topography of specific areas affects the speed and direction of winds.—Gary Robbins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 Oct. 2023 Because of the topography of the site, Dylan and team used the natural contours of the land to guide the project.—Sarah Yang, Sunset Magazine, 11 Oct. 2023 Since ice shelves are shrinking and getting thinner, those lines are quickly retreating inland, where the topography adds still more troubles.—WIRED, 7 Nov. 2023 The research needed to prepare for deep-sea mining — measuring the acoustics or temperature of currents, mapping the topography, and developing equipment that can operate under high pressure at low visibility — is the same as that needed for underwater warfare.—Lily Kuo, Washington Post, 19 Oct. 2023 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