Can You Name All These Geography Terms That Begin With C?


By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Paul Biris/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Imagine journeying to a faraway land and heading deep into volcanic voids of a caldera, or coming ashore on an exotic island cay surrounded by coral reefs. You could bundle up and head north to the icy and unforgiving regions of Earth's cryosphere if you like. Or even watch the sunset from the precarious edge of a stony cliff at the edge of a massive canyon by the cape. The diversity of Earth’s geography covers all manner of land masses and environmental features, from things as common as caves on the side of a mountain range or a cove just off the seashore to the much more exotic elements like cyclopean stairs or a cuesta. All of that, and we haven't even had to abandon the letter “c.”

If you know your geography terms like the back of your hand, now’s the time to strut your stuff. Let's head into a few craters, take a peek at the odd calanque, and see if you can ID a chine when you come across one. If you fancy yourself a geography expert of a high enough caliber to conquer a quiz focused solely on geography “c’s,” grab your compass and crush it.

Which of these is an artificial waterway?

A canal is a waterway constructed to allow the passage of boats, and as such, not a natural part of geography but one that does change the landscape. The most famous canals are likely the Panama and Suez, though canals were made even by the Romans.


You can find which of these between two cliffs?

A canyon is best described as a deep valley between a couple of cliff faces, although how wide it is can vary greatly. The Grand Canyon, for instance, is quite long at 277 miles, and at points, it reaches 18 miles across.


Promontory is another word for which of these?

A cape is a raised mass of land that extends out into the water. Because a cape is typically narrow, many of them don't last long as a result of erosion, but some of the most significant ones, like Cape Horn and Cape Cod, can stand the test of time.


Do you know which of these is a void in rock?

A cave is just an absence of rock in the way a hole in the ground is an absence of the soil. Speleology is the study of caves and is a relatively young area of study as previously cave study was lumped in with geography as a whole or perhaps geology.


The path a body of water like a river follows can be called what?

Channels and canals are not all that different, though a channel is a natural formation, like the English Channel, and will often connect two larger bodies of water. Every so often, someone will refer to a channel as a canal, though.


Another term for which of these is "precipice?"

A cliff is a mostly vertical rock face that you'll usually find in the mountains and along coastlines as they tend to be formed by erosion more than anything else, though some could be constructed through artificial means.


This term describes the largest kind of landmass in the world. What is it?

Oddly enough, there's no hard and fast definition for what a continent is. For instance, not everyone even agrees on how many continents there are in the world right now. Some say seven, while some accountings only make room for four, with all numbers in between represented as well.


Which of these is a small bay?

A cove is a small kind of bay that is sheltered in a way that can protect boats or whatever else is in the cove from things like storms. Generally speaking, they have a narrow entrance and then widen into a larger area, which is what provides that protection.


Do you know which of these is a kind of hill?

Cuesta is a term you likely don't often hear even if you see them around at places like the Niagra Escarpment. It's a hill or a ridge that has a gentle slope on one side of it and a much steeper slope on the other side.


Which of these is a circular depression?

A crater is what happens when something impacts the ground and with significant enough force to create a depression in it. The most common cause of craters that most of us are familiar with is meteor strikes.


This is an arbitrarily defined geographical region used for administrative purposes. What is it?

"County" comes from a French term for land that is under the jurisdiction of a count, so the name makes sense in that regard. The boundaries of a county are arbitrary and are just used for governmental or administrative purposes.


If you like skiing in Europe, you've likely been on one of which of these?

A couloir is a fairly narrow passage or gully you'll find between steep cliff walls, essentially a crevasse. European ski resorts are famous for them, but they're actually rather rare in the United States.


You could potentially refer to which of these as a spillway or ravine?

A coulee is generally a kind of drainage zone that doesn't always have to have water in it, but will likely be a drainage area during heavy rains. The definition of the word tends to change from place to place.


Erosion from a river causes which of these?

A cut bank is an eroded cliff along a river, essentially a cliff that was cut right into the rock by years of a river flowing through it. They're sometimes called river cliffs for pretty obvious reasons.


Glacial erosion causes which of these?

Since glaciers aren't the fastest moving things in the world, as they erode the land in the passage, they create a series of irregular steps in the rock by depressing the land. Those landforms are referred to as cyclopean stairs.


Which of these is a kind of mechanical erosion?

Corrasion, which is not the same as corrosion, is mechanical erosion, which is to say the act of some particles being rubbed against another surface. For instance, when a river moves the sand, that sand can rub against a rock and wear it down. That's corrasion.


What do you call it when two cities grow so large they merge?

As weird a word as the word sounds, conurbation is the name for the process of two urban areas merging as a result of them just growing so large they end up running together. The term was coined back in 1915, so it has some history.


Which of these is the term for the portion of land under water that surrounds a larger land mass?

The area of land around a continent is the continental shelf on which the land sits. It'd be to some degree what you walk out onto when you're at the beach, which then tapers off to a slope and finally the abyssal plain, which is where a continent very much ends.


What would you call a tool for navigation?

A compass can be used for navigating or just orienteering, and it shows the cardinal directions based on the Earth's magnetic pole manipulating a needle. Magnetic compasses date back to China in 206 BC and are considered one of the greatest inventions of all time.


This is the lowest point between two peaks. What is it?

If you're looking at two mountains, a col is the lowest point between them and is sometimes just called a gap. Generally, these aren't conducive to travel and aren't easy to get across if you're just casually hiking.


When land meets sea, what do we call it?

The coast or coastline of a land mass is where the land itself comes in contact with the sea. Smaller bodies of water like lakes also have coastlines, but those exist in the land mass rather than the coast that surrounds a land mass.


What do you call a valley shaped like an amphitheater?

Glacial erosion is to blame for the creation of cirques, which are concave valleys that open on one side but are surrounded by high, sheer cliff faces. The center is often like a bowl and may contain a lake.


Volcanic eruptions form which of these?

The cinder cone is the cone-like hill you'll find at the top of a volcanic vent, which gives what we know as a volcano its distinctive look. The ash, lava and assorted other sediments expelled from a volcano are what forms it.


Which of these is a steep-sided gorge?

A chine is a steep-sided gorge that a river flows through to the sea and is generally a term you'll hear in England. It's formed by the water eroding fairly soft rock, which is what makes it so steep in the first place.


This is another term for shrubland. What is it?

Chaparral is a term that describes a kind of shrubland marked by a Mediterranean climate and a resistance to drought thanks to the hearty plant-life that lives there. This is the kind of land you'll find throughout California.


Which of these is another term for a kind of sinkhole?

A cenote is a pit or a sinkhole that has formed naturally and exposes the groundwater underneath, thus making it a potentially good swimming hole if the conditions are otherwise safe around it. They're also favored by scuba divers.


Do you know which of these is a small island on a coral reef?

A cay is sometimes better known by the name key, and in that context is probably very familiar to you. The Florida Keys, for instance, are so named because they are a series of these small islands on coral reefs.


Which of these is analogous to the chocolate coating on a cream-filled egg?

Caprock is what you get when a hard or resilient kind of rock is covering a softer or weaker rock, literally making a cap of rock that gives it its name. It's a common form of rock in escarpments and mesa formations.


What's a term for a kind of volcanic crater?

A caldera is a crater or cavern typically formed when a volcanic eruption empties a chamber of magma and leaves a void behind. Technically speaking, it's more of a sinkhole than a crater as it needs to collapse in rather than something falling into it.


This is a kind of inlet found along the Mediterranean coast. What is it?

Formed in limestone or dolomite cliffs and rock formations, you'll only find calanques along the Mediterranean coast. They're pretty famous along the coast of France and are generally caused by erosion.


You can use which of these terms to describe any place where water exists in frozen form?

The cryosphere is what stands in opposition to the hydrosphere, which accounts for the parts of the world where you will find liquid water like oceans, lakes, and rivers. The cryosphere is just every place with frozen water like the ice caps, frozen rivers, even permafrost.


Which of these is the top part of the lithosphere?

The Earth's crust is about 20 to 30 miles thick and accounts for a mere 1% of the entire planet's volume. Below the crust, you'll find the Earth's mantle. If you could dig down the edge of the crust where the mantle begins, you'd have to endure temperatures of up to 752° Fahrenheit.


A nation with its own government is called what?

There is no natural geographical border for any given country in the world; instead, they are differentiated from one another by borders made up for political reasons that are generally (but not always) agreed upon by neighboring countries.


What do you call it when two bodies of water flow together?

The spot where bodies of water merge, whether that's two rivers or a stream meeting a river is called a confluence. You can find these all over the world such as where the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers come together at Three Forks, Montana.


Which of these is the study of maps?

Cartography is the study of maps and the craft of making them. Anyone who practices cartography is called a cartographer. The practice is remarkably old, and at least one map has been dated back to the 7th millennium BCE.


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