Geography is the study of the world, the locations found there, and how people interact with them. As people engage with the world, they carefully diagram representations of it (maps) to fully understand all the nooks and crannies. Maps are helpful visual aids to understand the world, travel within it, use its resources, and handle all the troubles it might bring. A range of mapping terms provide a guide to this process.
There are many common mapping terms and definitions. Let’s delve right in.
Common Mapping Terms in Alphabetical Order
Maps formed from photographs from the sky.
Height above ground or sea level.
A book of maps.
A depression or dip in the earth’s surface.
A part of the coast that is surrounded on three sides by land such as San Francisco Bay.
The outer limits of a geographic unit such as the boundary of the United States.
The study of maps.
A type of map usually used for navigation of the seas and skies.
Land near the shore of a body of water, for instance, the Pacific Coast (Pacific Ocean).
An object used to determine directions. A compass on a map helps you determine directions.
Large continuous masses of land that are usually separated by bodies of water. The continents are North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, and Oceania. (Sometimes, Oceania is not counted as a continent.)
A set of numbers used to represent a position on a map.
A single unit of measurement such as a degree of latitude.
Area of flat land often shaped like a triangle where a river divides into smaller bodies of water.
The position above or below sea level.
An imaginary line, equally distant from the North and South Poles, that divides the earth.
A large area significantly filled with trees.
The study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.
A spherical object that contains a representation of the earth.
A network of lines that form a rectangular area.
A narrow opening of water providing land access such as the Persian Gulf in the Middle East.
High Water Mark
The highest level of land a body of water reaches.
A narrow strip of land with water on each side forming a link between two larger areas of land. The nation of Panama is an isthmus.
Another name for a map legend.
A major fixed location that helps to determine the location of something else.
Lines, going east and west, on a map that determine how far (north or south) you are from the Equator.
displays the meaning of the symbols, colors, and styles used to represent data on the map.
Are lines on a map that determine how far (east and west) you are from the Prime Meridan. They go north and south and meet at the North and South Pole.
The primary part of a country or continent that is not surrounded by water. The forty-eight states of the United States (other than Alaska and Hawaii) are the “mainland” of the U.S.
A representation of an area of land or water showing their physical features.
Low-level land that is usually filled with water.
Imaginary lines that are drawn north to south on a map are used to define longitude.
The process used to accurately determine one’s location as well as the route used on a journey.
A large body of salt water. The five oceans are the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern (Antarctic).
The name given to the geographic area in the central and southern Pacific Ocean, which includes many islands such as New Zealand. Oceania is sometimes considered a separate continent.
Land nearly totally surrounded by water but still connected to the mainland. Italy is an example of a peninsula.
A region of land that is consistently flat with little or no elevation such as the Great Plains.
A unit of land (such as used to build a house) or a map that represents it.
The first or “prime” meridian (at Greenwich, England) is zero degrees longitude.
A mapmaking method where a curved area of the earth is represented as a flat area.
Elevations and depressions of the earth, including the ocean floor.
Bodies of water that flow downhill due to gravity.
Geographically used to mean a smaller body of water where oceans and land meet.
The average height of a nearby unit of water that is used to measure elevation.
The quantity a part of a map represents. A scale might note an inch on a map represents one hundred miles.
The intersection of the land and water.
A narrow passage of water such as the Strait of Gibraltar off the coast of Spain.
Large segments of land that are smaller than a continent. India is a subcontinent.
Measuring the characteristics of the earth. A surveyor is a person who surveys.
A graphic representation such as little tree figures to represent a forest.
The steady rise and fall of the water that results from gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth.
Means of measurement to determine distances.
The study of the features of an area. It can apply to the features themselves or a description of them as displayed on maps.
Areas on a map.