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Thread: Looking for a List of Less Common Topographical Terms

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  1. #1

    Question Looking for a List of Less Common Topographical Terms

    Hey guys, first post here. I've been lurking for a couple weeks now and enjoying the fantastic maps posted here. Truly inspiring.

    I'm nowhere near the skill level of using anything like Illustrator or Photoshop (yet) but my friend did let me use his old Cartographer 3 software to put a basic functioning map together.

    I've decided to come up with some names first before I map it out but would like to get something fairly exhaustive concerning lesser known topographical names.

    I've already had a quick look around at some of the threads but haven't found exactly what I'm looking for so I thought I'd just post a few here so people can get a flavor of what I'm looking for:


    I recall doing fairly well in my geography and geology classes (I still know what an alluvial plain, estuary, caldera, moraine, and cirque are etc.) but I'm talking about more of the older names and features that have either fallen out of use or are just uncommon.

    I'd be most appreciative if anybody could point me to a resource that would address this or if one does not exist, would be willing to help in compiling a list.



  2. #2
    Administrator Redrobes's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
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    Hi Geoff and welcome. There was exactly this sort of thread a few weeks back. Ill have a look but I am sure someone will post a link.

    Edit: - try whole thread but this post is linked. - auto name gens

    But if you come up with a grand codex of historical place names then post more links.
    Last edited by Redrobes; 12-30-2009 at 04:35 PM.

  3. #3


    Thanks for the quick reply Red.

    Yeah, I already looked at those threads and found they dealt primarily with proper names. I'm looking for features moreso than names (capitalizing them in my first post was probably a confusing thing to do). A firth would be another feature that just sprang to mind that should be added to the list.

    Just some features that aren't that common, unlike the sea of ____, or the ______ mountains, or the forest of _______.

    Anyway, I'll keep scouring and post my findings, if any.

    In the meantime, should anybody wish to add to my, thus far pitiable list, please do so.

  4. #4
    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Surrey, Canada, EH!


    to add to it, I will grab what you already have and add, with a short description:

    Fen - A fen is a type of wetland fed by surface and/or groundwater
    Bight - recess of a coast or bay
    March - The border or boundary of a country or an area of land; a frontier. A tract of land bordering on two countries and claimed by both.
    Dun - A type of small fort
    Heath - heathland, low-growing woody vegetation, mostly consisting of heathers and related species
    Moor - a type of wetland which is subject to frequent or continuous flood
    Demense - In the feudal system, demesne (also spelled desmesne) was all the land, not necessarily all contiguous to the manor house, that was retained by a lord for his own use
    Scree - an accumulation of weathered rock fragments at the foot of a cliff or hillside, often forming a sloping heap Also called talus.
    Firth - A long, narrow inlet of the sea. Firths are usually the lower part of an estuary, but are sometimes fjords.

    ALLUVIAL FAN - A broad, circular fan-shaped deposit of sediments found in deserts where erosional stream channels meet the valley floor and spread out, depositing the stream load.
    ARROYO - A dry creek bed that fills with water after a heavy rain.
    ATOLL - A circular coral reef that encloses a shallow lagoon.
    CATARACT - A large waterfall.
    CIRQUE - A bowl-shaped depression on a mountain that is carved out by an Alpine glacier.
    KARST - A landscape composed of limestone features including sinkholes, caves, and underground streams.
    LAHAR - A volcanic mudflow.
    MORAINE - A ridge of unsorted and unconsolidated glacial deposits.
    OXBOW LAKE - Crescent-shaped lakes, once part of a river meander, but now separated from the river and surrounded by land.
    Last edited by NeonKnight; 12-30-2009 at 05:37 PM.
    Daniel the Neon Knight: Campaign Cartographer User

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  5. #5


    Well done on defining and organizing Daniel.

    If this grows it could become sticky-worthy.

    I'll keep searching. I did find this, which I thought link-worthy:

    Not much but some interesting tidbits here and there, brook being the obvious one:


  6. #6


    You may also wish to peruse this thread:

    It was intended to be a reference for terms related to the practice of cartography, but it picked up some toponymy posts, as well.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  7. #7


    I hope this list does develop. I love lost/obscure language.

    I did a quick search for Geography Dictionary and found this...

    ...which had a nice definition of Fen in it. As well it led to which allows you to browse through the terms.

    I've seen a few dictionaries of geography over the years. Perhaps finding an old one via Google Books might be worthwhile.

    One of my favorites sites is:

    Perhaps it's worth contacting the site owner to see if he has any related list or suggestions for you. It sounds right up his alley.

  8. #8


    Wow, great stuff guy.

    I've bookmarked a lot of links on your babylon page. Very useful stuff. Creative names and places are already turning over in my mind. Thanks!

  9. #9


    hey, this is my first post. but that's irrelevant.

    I have been wanting similar things for ages.

    This is just a compilation that i made for myself and thought i'd share. i think i'm going to organise it into categories, such as "river features", "volcano features" etc. But i was up till four last night on it and i can't be bothered at the moment. If anyone has anything to add to this, please say so. Just what i have found so far on these boards has been infinitely helpful.

    sorry that it's really messy, format and grammar-wise.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  10. #10


    It's a shame that there is no translator for my language. Leb tritq ket golgeüü vekt leb detritq ket ovomojir fel qa praxór.

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