Picture Glossary of Geological Landforms

See What the Earth Is Made Of

The St Ninian's Isle Tombolo linking the Isle and the South Mainland on Shetland is the largest sand tombolo in the UK, Scotland UK
Colin Weston/Britain On View/Getty Images

The Earth has a diverse landscape of made up of many different landforms. These landforms have been shaped by everything from humans to weather and even the shifting of the tectonic plates. These stunning photos of each landform type will help illustrate the wonders of nature all around us.

Depositional Landforms

Depositional Landforms are built up by movement of material, usually sediment.

Alluvial Fan—Where sediment spills from hills into piles on plains.

Bajada—Apron of debris built of many alluvial fans.

Bar—Sediment piled across the mouth of a river or bay.

Barrier Island—Long sandy bar that guards the coast.

Beach—Sandy shore between land and sea.

Delta—Where sediment fills the mouth of a river.

Dune—Pile of fine sand built by the wind.

Floodplain—Wide muddy flats flanking a river.

Landslide—Sediment deposit created by mass movement.

Lava Flow—Building block of volcanoes.

Levee—Natural berm along a river, rarely seen today.

Mud Volcano—Edifice built by eruptions of gas-charged sediment.

Playa—Dry lake bed, typically dusty or salty.

Spit—Bar or barrier island growing offshore into open water.

Terrace—Ancient bench built into a vanished lake.

Tombolo—Sandbar joining two pieces of land.

Tufa Tower—Limy growth exposed as a mineral lake subsides.

Volcano—Mountain that grows from the inside up.

Special Galleries: Landslides, Tombolos, Mud Volcanoes

Erosional Landforms

Erosional Landforms are carved by the forces of erosion. Erosion is when landmasses are shaped by water.

Arch—Short-lived natural bridges of stone.

Arroyo—Flat-floored streambed typical of deserts.

Badlands—Mazelike area of strong stream dissection.

Butte—Narrow table mountain or abruptly rising stone hill.

Canyon—Large, steep-walled rocky valley.

Chimney—Column of rock standing in the water off a beach.

Cliff—Precipitous rock face of various heights.

Cirque—Mountainside bowl shaped by a glacier.

Cuesta—Ridge of hard rock beds that slope gently.

Gorge—High-walled rocky valley cut by vigorous waters.

Gulch—Steep and narrow ravine eroded by flash floods.

Gully—Small channel cut into a soft material.

Hanging Valley—Stream bed that ends in a waterfall.

Hogback—Ridge of hard rock beds that slope steeply.

Hoodoo—Tall rock column carved by desert erosion.

Hoodoo Rock—Bizarre rock shape carved by desert erosion.

Inselberg—Remnant rock knob typical of deserts.

Mesa—Table mountain, steep-sided and flat-topped.

Monadnock—Mountainous remnant of widespread regional erosion.

Mountain—Large, rocky hill with a peak.

Ravine—Narrow, rocky valley carved by water.

Sea Arch—Arch cut by ocean waves.

Sinkhole—Collapsed ground where underlying rock has been removed.

Tor—Rounded rocky knob unearthed from an underground origin.

Valley—In general, low ground with high ground around it.

Volcanic Neck—Solid lava core of a former volcano.

Wash or Wadi—Streambed that is usually either dry or flooded.

Water Gap—River valley that cuts through a rock ridge.

Wave-Cut Platform—Rock surface cut flat by long exposure to surf.

Yardang—Sediment shape carved by fierce desert winds.

Tectonic Landforms

Tectonic Landforms are made by movements of Earth's crust such as earthquakes. 

Escarpment—Large cliff usually made by faulting.

Fault Scarp—Short-lived sign of earthquake displacement.

Pressure Ridge—When push comes to shove, rock rises.

Rift Valley—Formed by splitting lithospheric plates.

Sag Basin—When pull comes to tug, rock falls.

Shutter Ridge—High ground pulled sideways across a stream.

Stream Offset—Disruption of a waterway by repeated fault motion.

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Your Citation
Alden, Andrew. "Picture Glossary of Geological Landforms." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/landform-picture-index-1441232. Alden, Andrew. (2020, August 26). Picture Glossary of Geological Landforms. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/landform-picture-index-1441232 Alden, Andrew. "Picture Glossary of Geological Landforms." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/landform-picture-index-1441232 (accessed January 23, 2021).

Watch Now: What Is a Depositional Landform?