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Geography Terms List with Definitions

By the end of the school year you will be expected to know all the terms on this list. We will begin with the first few words or so and with each new topic we will add more terms. There will be a vocabulary quiz approximately every week. Any new words, in addition to all previous words on the list, are fair game for these quizzes. These are not all the key terms and people you will be required to learn this year, but these are the ones that will appear on our vocabulary quizzes throughout the year.

Note: Terms marked with an asterisk (*) are not found in the 7th grade textbook's glossary. (The definitions are for all other terms are taken from Eastern Hemisphere: Geography, History, Culture by H.H. Jacobs, B. Randolph, and M. L. LeVasseur. Copyright 2001 Prentice-Hall, Inc. Pages 754-764.)

  1. geography - The study of the Earth's surface, the connections between places, and the relationships between people and their environment.
  2. latitude lines- A series of imaginary lines, also called parallels, that circle the Earth parallel to the Equator; used to measure a distance north or south of the Equator in degrees.
  3. parallel - A line of latitude
  4. degrees* - A unit of measure used to determine absolute location; on globes and maps, lines of latitude and longitude are measured in degrees.
  5. minute* - 1/60 of a degree.
  6. Equator - An imaginary line that circles the globe at its widest point, dividing the Earth into two halves called hemispheres; used as a reference point from which north and south latitudes are measured.
  7. longitude lines - A series of imaginary lines, also called meridians, that run north and south, from one pole to the other; used to measure the distance east or west of the Prime Meridian in degrees.
  8. meridian - A line of longitude.
  9. Prime Meridian - The line of longitude that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole through Greenwich, England; it is designated 0 longitude and is the reference point from which lines of east and west longitude are measured.
  10. absolute location - The exact position of a place on Earth.
  11. relative location - The location of a place as described by the places near it.
  12. place* - A location's physical and human features.
  13. physical feature (characteristic) - The natural features of Earth, such as land formations or vegetation zones.
  14. human characteristic (feature) - Characteristics of a place that are related to people; these might include buildings or parks.
  15. human-environment interaction - How people affect their environment and how the environment affects them.
  16. movement* - Theme of geography that explains how people, goods, and ideas get from one place to another.
  17. region - An area with a unifying characteristic such as climate, land, population, or history.
  18. plain - A large area of flat or gently rolling land usually without many trees.
  19. scale - The size of an area on a map as compared with the area's actual size.
  20. distortion - A misrepresentation of the true shape; every map projection produces some distortion.
  21. compass rose - A map feature that usually shows the four cardinal directions.
  22. cardinal directions - The four main compass points: north, south, east, and west.
  23. intermediate directions* - The points of the compass that fall between north and east, north and west, south and east, and south and west (e.g., NE, NW, SE, and SW).
  24. key (legend) - The section of a map that explains the symbols for the map features.
  25. orbit - The path followed by an object in space as it moves around another, such as that of Earth as it moves around the sun.
  26. revolution - One complete orbit of the Earth around the sun; Earth completes one revolution every 365 days.
  27. axis - An imaginary line around which a planet turns.
  28. rotation - The spinning motion of the Earth, like a top on its axis; the Earth takes about 24 hours to rotate one time.
  29. earth-sun relationship* - The position of the Earth relative to the sun that helps to determine day and night, seasons, and time zones.
  30. low latitudes (tropics) - The region between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
  31. high latitudes (polar zones) - The regions between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole and the Antarctic Circle and the South Pole.
  32. middle latitudes (temperate zones) - The regions between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle.
  33. plate tectonics - The theory that the Earth's crust is made of huge, slowly moving slabs of rock called plates.
  34. weathering - The breaking down of rocks by wind, rain, or ice.
  35. erosion - A process by which water, wind, or ice wears away landforms and carries the material to another place.
  36. atmosphere - The multilayered band of gases that surrounds the Earth.
  37. weather - The condition of the bottom layer of the Earth's atmosphere in one place over a short period of time.
  38. precipitation - All forms of water, such as rain, sleet, hail, and snow, that fall to the ground from the atmosphere.
  39. climate - The weather patterns that an area typically experiences over a long period of time.
  40. tundra - A region where temperatures are always cool or cold and where only certain plants, such as low grasses, can grow.
  41. vertical climate - The overall weather patterns of a region as influenced by elevation; the higher the elevation, the colder the climate.
  42. population - The people living in a particular region; especially, the total number of people in an area.
  43. population distribution - How a population is spread over an area.
  44. population density - The average number of people in a given area (often a square mile).
  45. birth rate - The number of live births each year, per 1,000 people.
  46. death rate - The number of deaths each year per 1,000 people.
  47. life expectancy - The average number of years a person is expected to live.
  48. standard of living - The material quality of life, often measured by education, housing, health care, and nutrition.
  49. migration - The movement of people from one country or region to another in order to make a new home.
  50. immigrant - A person who moves to a new country in order to settle there.
  51. push-pull theory - A theory of migration that says people migrate because certain things in their lives "push" them to leave, and certain things in a new place "pull" them.
  52. push factor* - A social, political, economic, or environmental force that drives people from a location.
  53. pull factor* - A social, political, economic, or environmental attraction to a new area that draws people from a previous location.
  54. urbanization - The growth of city populations caused by the movement of people to cities.
  55. rural area - An area with low population density such as a village or the countryside.
  56. urban area - An area with high population density, such as a city or town.
  57. suburban area* - A usually residential area close to a city.
  58. culture - Language, religious beliefs, values, customs, and other ways of life shared by a group of people.
  59. cultural traits (practice) - A behavioral characteristic of a group of people, such as a language, skill, or custom, passed from one generation to another.
  60. cultural product* - A tangible or intangible product of a cultural group.
  61. agriculture - Farming; includes growing crops and raising livestock.
  62. social structure - The ways in which people within a culture are organized into smaller groups; each smaller group has its own particular tasks.
  63. nuclear family - A family that includes parents or children.
  64. extended family - A family unit that may include parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives, often living with or near each other.
  65. economy - A system for producing, distributing, consuming, and owning goods, services, and wealth.
  66. producer - A person who makes products that are used by other people.
  67. consumer - A person who buys goods or services.
  68. goods - Products that are made; objects that can satisfy people's wants.
  69. services - Work done or duties performed for other people; actions capable of satisfying people's wants.
  70. want* - A psychological or physical desire that can be fulfilled through the consumption of goods and services.
  71. capital goods* - Human-made resources needed to produce goods or services such as machinery or tools.
  72. capitalism - An economic system in which people and privately owned companies own basic and non-basic businesses and industries.
  73. market economy* - An economic system in which people acting as buyers and sellers make the decisions about production and consumption; capitalism is a market economy.
  74. socialism - An economic system in which the government owns the basic industries, such as transportation and banking; non-basic industries are privately owned.
  75. mixed economy* - An economic system that combines the features of more than one economic system; socialism is an example of a mixed economy.
  76. communism - An economic system and theory of government in which all basic and non-basic industries are owned by a central government for the benefit of all citizens.
  77. command economy* - An economic system in which all decisions about production and consumption are made by a central government, as in communism.
  78. government - The system that establishes and enforces the laws and institutions of a society.
  79. direct democracy - A system of government in which the people participate directly in decision making.
  80. representative democracy (republic) - A system of government in which people elect representatives to run the affairs of the country.
  81. monarchy - A system of authoritarian government headed by a monarch - usually a king or queen - who inherits the throne by birth.
  82. constitutional monarchy - A government in which a king or queen is the head of state but has limited powers, such as the present government of the U.K.
  83. dictatorship* - A system of government in which the leader or leaders have complete power and cannot be held responsible to the will of the people.
  84. theocracy* - A system of government headed by one or more religious leaders who claim to rule by divine authority.
  85. country* - A unit of political space; the entire land area of a nation or state.
  86. nation* - A group of people bound together by a strong sense of shared values and cultural characteristics, including language, religion, and common history.
  87. cultural diffusion - The movement of customs and ideas from one culture to another.
  88. cultural perspective* - The complex set of meanings, attitudes, values, and ideas belonging to a cultural group.
  89. acculturation - The process of accepting, borrowing, and exchanging ideas and traits among cultures.
  90. natural resource - Any useful material found in the environment.
  91. raw material - A resource or material that is still in its natural state, before being processed or manufactured into a useful product.
  92. recyclable resource (flow resource) - A resource that cycles through natural processes in the environment; water, carbon, and nitrogen are recyclable resources.
  93. renewable resource - A natural resources that can be regenerated if used carefully, such as timber or fish.
  94. nonrenewable resource - A resource that cannot be replaced once it is used, like oil, coal, and minerals.
  95. fossil fuel - Any one of several nonrenewable resources such as coal, oil, or natural gas created from the remains of plants and animals.
  96. manufacturing - The process of turning raw materials into a finished product.
  97. human resource* - The talents and skills of a human or humans that contributes to the production of goods and services.
  98. developed nation - A country with a modern industrial society and a well developed economy.
  99. developing nation - A country with low industrial production, often lacking modern technology.
  100. commercial farming - Farming that is done by companies; commercial farms are large and use modern technology; also, the raising of crops and livestock for sale in outside markets.
  101. subsistence farming - Farming that provides only enough food and animals to meet the needs of a family or village.
  102. ecosystem - A community of living things and their environment; the elements of an ecosystem interact with one another.
  103. deforestation - The process of clearing land of forests or trees, usually to make room for farms and homes.
  104. social class* - A group of people within a society that possess the same socioeconomic status, often determined by occupation, education, income, manners, etc.
  105. middle class - A group of people that included traders, merchants and others who were economically between the poor and the very rich that emerged during the Renaissance.
  106. colonialism* - A system where one country extends its control over a foreign territory, especially for economic benefit.
  107. imperialism - The control by one country of the economic and political life of another country or region.
  108. nationalism - The feeling of pride in one's homeland; a group's identity as members of a nation.

This list was lasted updated on 8/23/06.