While reading an entry on a Spanish blog one morning, I came across a word I don’t believe I’d ever seen before: orografía (not to be confused with ortografía/orthography). The sensagent dictionary provided this explanation of the term:

La orografía (del gr. ὄρος, montaña, y -grafía, descripción), según el diccionario de la RAE puede referirse tanto a las elevaciones que puedan existir en una zona en particular (región, país, etc.) como a la descripción de las mismas que realiza la Geomorfología.

Technical terms like this one are often similar in English, so I guessed at the existence of orography and found my hunch confirmed. Yourdictionary provided two definitions:  ‘The study of the physical geography of mountains and mountain ranges,’ and ‘the branch of physical geography dealing with mountains.’

The Greek root oro- ‘mountain’ appears in a couple of other technical words:

orología/orology: ‘the science or description of mountains’

orogénesis/orogenesis or orogeny: ‘the formation of mountains through structural disturbance of the earth’s crust, esp. by folding and faulting’

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WordSnooper.com
    May 23, 2014 @ 20:02:17

    In my husband’s meteorological studies he has to deal with “orographic effects,” which the New Oxford American Dictionary defines as, “(of clouds or rainfall) resulting from the effects of mountains in forcing moist air to rise.”


    • Steve Schwartzman
      May 23, 2014 @ 21:11:30

      Well, someone who’s actually heard of the word (or more precisely the adjectival version of it). You’re one up on me, just as those rain-delivering clouds are one up on the mountains, so to speak.


  2. WordSnooper.com
    May 23, 2014 @ 22:46:50



  3. shoreacres
    May 24, 2014 @ 06:51:53

    And how interesting that the person who explained to me the process of geologic “folding and faulting” as a means of mountain formation should have been someone who lives in — Montana! Yes, that was montucky.

    Now I not only have a name for a process, I have a better understanding of the name of a state.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      May 24, 2014 @ 07:46:37

      So much lies in the names of places if only we know the language of those names. In addition to the montaña ‘mountain’ of our northwestern state there’s the nevada ‘snow-covered’ of that other large state to its southwest, and the vert mont ‘green mountain’ of the much smaller state in the Northeast. Here in Texas we have not only the Red River but the Colorado that likewise means ‘red’ in Spanish. There’s also the Brazos, in full the Brazos de Dios ‘arms of God.’


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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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