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I'm sure this is silly and won't be terribly difficult to answer: can one climb atop a mountain or is it proper to say climb on top of. Or does it matter? I'm thinking the latter is correct.

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closed as general reference by Robusto, Mahnax, Kristina Lopez, John Lawler, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jan 4 '13 at 3:56

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It's versus, not verses. And it's pronounced with a final S, not a Z. And neither one of those is correct. On top of and atop both mean situated on the top, not moving up the slope. –  John Lawler Jan 4 '13 at 1:57
One can stand atop, or on top of, something, but not climb atop. –  Mark Beadles Jan 4 '13 at 2:57
@Mark: Of course you can - 100 writers in Google Books say someone "climbed atop the wall", for example. Voting to reopen. –  FumbleFingers Jan 6 '13 at 23:58
@FumbleFingers Interesting, and given your evidence I must concur. Learn something new about this tongue of ours every day! –  Mark Beadles Jan 7 '13 at 0:24
@Mark: To be honest, I thought atop was a quaint/fading/poetic usage, but apparently it's new(ish) and particularly taking off in the US. Weird. –  FumbleFingers Jan 7 '13 at 3:15

2 Answers 2

I don't think you would do either of these to a mountain, you would simply climb a mountain. Otherwise, they're interchangeable but atop is less used. Humpty Dumpty might sit atop a wall, but most other people would sit on top of one.

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True, you wouldn't climb atop a mountain. But although I don't know exactly how he did it, Humpty Dumpty must have climbed atop the wall in order to sit on it. Unless he was lowered onto it by a crane. So far as I know, Lewis Carroll never actually told us how he got up there in the first place. –  FumbleFingers Jan 4 '13 at 3:12
Fair comment, though I was using it as an illustration that 'atop' is more whimsical –  Mynamite Jan 6 '13 at 23:18
Yeah - atop is definitely a bit dated/poetic. Not really in the "standard" spoken lexicon for many people - we mostly say on top of now. –  FumbleFingers Jan 6 '13 at 23:55

The standard idiom is that one climbs to the top of a mountain.

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True, you don't often climb atop a mountain - because it's just too big. But plenty of people have "climbed atop a table". I think it's inherent in climbing atop something that you get higher up and can thus see further. But I'm not sure climbers go up serious mountains for the view. –  FumbleFingers Jan 7 '13 at 0:11