Landform: Definition & Types

Landform: Definition & Types
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  • 0:00 Definition Of Landform
  • 0:33 Landforms Near Water
  • 1:43 Landforms With…
  • 2:47 The Flat And The Low
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Howard

Maria is a teacher and a learning specialist and has master's degrees in literature and education.

Read about landforms and their major features. Learn the differences between formations like mountains and hills, valleys and canyons. (Hint: It has to do with their form.)


Landforms are naturally occurring formations or areas of land. Land formations can be as varied as mountains, canyons or plains. Areas of land broadens the definition to include landforms as big as islands, coasts, and even continents. If you've ever watched the TV show Lost, you know that an island is a landform that can contain coasts, valleys, hills and mountains. Likewise, each of the seven continents are made up of several different landforms.

Landforms Near Water

Landforms are often shaped by the elements around them, especially water. Coasts are areas of land that come in direct contact with oceans. They can be rocky and full of dangerous cliffs or have beautiful white sand beaches.

A coastline might also contain a bay, which is a body of water with land on three sides. If you look at images of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, you will notice the land on both sides of the bridge and in the far distance create a bay. That is why that part of Northern California is often referred to as the Bay Area. Another example of a bay are areas throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

In contrast, peninsulas are areas of land surrounded by water on three sides. The state of Florida is one of the most recognizable peninsulas. If you were to ask a kid to draw a map of the U.S., they would draw Florida sticking out, bordered by water on three sides. Another example of a large peninsula is the nation of Italy. Islands, of course, are landforms completely surrounded by water.

Landforms with High(er) Elevations

The height of a landform compared to sea level is its elevation. When we think of land formations, landforms with higher elevations like mountains and plateaus are often the first to come to mind.

Mountains have high elevations, usually over 300 meters (or 1,000 feet) and a summit, or peak, on top. Mountains form in ranges, which are groups of mountains of similar shape and age. Mt. Everest is the world's highest mountain peak and is part of the Himalayas mountain range.

Hills have elevations above sea level but are generally not as tall as mountains. The main distinction between hills and mountains is that hills have rounded tops while mountains have sharper peaks.

A plateau is an elevated landform with a flat, table-like surface on top. Plateaus can be built by the same forces which create mountains, but unlike mountains, their peaks are often eroded and flattened by wind and rain.

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