Help Earth

List of All Landforms

Landforms and Definitions List
List of Landforms

By David Olmstead

Alluvial fan:  land formation that occurs when sedimentary materials such as rocks, gravel, and silt, are deposited onto land as a result of decreasing or stopped water flow from a river or stream source.

Altitude (elevation): the height above sea level

Anabranch: a flowing part of the river that is separated, usually by an island, and rejoins back down stream.

Archipelago: a group of many islands.

Arête:  a group sharp ridges of rocks on mountain tops usually caused by melting glaciers.

Arroyo: a creek that is sometimes dry during the year from not having a constant water source such as rain.

Badlands: barren, battered and eroded land from water and shaped with the help of wearing and wind-driven sand and rain.

Barchan: is a sand dune that crescent-shape that faces the wind.  The convex shape is formed by the constant blow of wind in one direction.

Barrier Island: an island or group of island, usually in the ocean, that protects the nearby mainland coast from erosion.

Basin: An area of land largely enclosed by higher land.

Bay: part of a body of salt water that reaches into the land; usually smaller than a gulf

Bayou: A slow moving body of water in a low lying area, usually near the coast, with swamp or marshland in some portions of the shoreline.

Beach: A sloping shoreline consisting of sand, gravel, soil or other sediment.

Beach Cusps:  Beach formation in the form of an arc with a cusp or point at each end

Beach Ridge: Elevated formation of sand or other beach material running parallel to a shoreline

Bight: A curve like a bay landform that that has less curve than a bay.

branch (tributary)
a river or stream that flows into a larger river or stream

Blowhole: a hole connected to a cave that is attached to a water system that builds up pressure through waves, current or wind.  When the pressure is great enough, water is release, usually in a spouting manner.

Blowout: A depression or a major loss in vegetation in the ground where the wind has blown away sand or topsoil.

canal
a man-made waterway connecting two bodies of water and is designed to shorten travel time or irrigate

canyon
narrow valley with steep sides; usually created by erosion

cape
a curved or hooked piece of land extending into a body of water

channel
a narrow deep waterway connecting two larger bodies of water; the deepest part of the waterway.

climate
the pattern of weather conditions (temperature, precipitation) over a long period of time

cliff
a high, steep slope of rock or soil

coast
land along the sea or ocean

continent
one of the seven largest bodies of land on earth

continental shelf
plateau of land surface into the ocean but underwater

current
the flow of a stream of water

dam
a wall built across a stream or river to hold back water

delta
land built up by deposits of sand and silt at the mouth of some rivers

desert
dry, barren region usually sandy and without trees, little rainfall or practical use of land unless irrigated

divide
the highest ridge of land separating river basins

downstream
the direction of a river’s flow; toward the mouth of the river

fault
a fracture in the rocks along which there has been movement

fjord
a narrow inlet of the sea between high banks or cliffs created by glaciers

forest
a large tract of land covered with trees and underbrush; extensive wooded area

fork
the place where a stream or tributary joins a river

glacier
a large body of slow moving ice which alters the land around it through displacement

gulf
part of a sea or ocean that reaches into land; usually larger than a bay

harbor
a sheltered area of water where ships may anchor safely

hemisphere
half of the earth usually referred to as eastern or western; northern or southern

highland
an area of hills, plateaus, and mountains

hill
a raised part of the earth’s surface with sloping sides; old mountain which because of erosion has become rounder and shorter

iceberg
a large mass of floating ice that has broken off from a glacier, most of this is underwater

inlet
a small part of a body of water that reaches into a coast

island
an are of land completely surrounded by water

isthmus
narrow strip of land with water on both sides connecting two larger pieces of land

lake
a large body of water surrounded by land

latitude
imaginary lines on a globe or map used to measure distance from the equator; parallel lines running east and west

longitude
imaginary lines on a globe or map used to measure distance from the Prime Meridian; lines running from pole to pole.

lowland
an area of low and usually level land

mesa
a land formation having a relatively flat top and steep rock walls

mountain
high, rocky land, usually with steep sides and a pointed or rounded top, higher than a hill

mountain range
a long chain of mountains; a row of connected mountains

mouth (of a river)
place where a river empties into a larger body of water; the end of a river

Natural Arch
rock that forms together with a natural rock bridge usually caused by erosion.

oasis
a fertile place in the desert where there is water and some vegetation

ocean
largest body of salt water; these cover 3/4 of the earth’s surface.

peninsula
piece of land that extends into a body of water and is surrounded on three sides by water

plain
a broad, flat or gently rolling area; usually low in elevation

plateau
flat highland area with one steep face; elevated plain

port
man-made place along the coastline where ships can load and unload cargo; not a natural harbor

prarie
a large plains region with tall grass

rapids
a part of a river, generally shallow, where the currents move swiftly over rocks

reef
a ridge of rock or sand at or near the surface of the water

reservoir
a lake where water is collected and stored for future use

river
a large stream of water flowing through the land into a lake, ocean, or other body of water

sea
a large body of water, usually salt water, partly or completely surrounded by land

sound
a wide channel connecting two bodies of water or an inlet between the mainland and islands

source (of a river)
the place where a river or stream begins

strait
a narrow waterway connecting two larger bodies of water

Sandbar:  an area of sand or sentiment that has been collecting and rises above or just below the water.

swamp
an area of land that is always soaked with water; low, wet land that supports grass and trees

tide
the regular rising and falling of the water of the oceans and waters connected to the ocean

upstream
the direction toward a river’s source; opposite to the rivers’ flow

valley
low land between hills or mountains

volcano
a cone shaped mountain formed out of rock or ash thrown up from inside the earth, frequently with an opening or depression at the top

waterfall
place where running water makes a sheer drop, usually over a cliff