For example, in the following picture, I see two "elevated areas" (one on the right, and one on the left, at the distance):

picture of mountain

The only word that comes to my mind is hill. But I'm not quite sure, since those elevations are part of a mountain.

How to refer to them?


7 Answers 7


Ridge and hill seem to be the respective answers, at least according to the Army Study Guide, which uses a sketch of a human hand to identify different terrain features:

sketch of human hand showing connection to geographic features

They there define a hill as

a point or small area of high ground. When you are on a hilltop, the ground slopes down in all directions.

hill drawing

And they define a ridge to be

a line of high ground with height variations along its crest. The ridge is not simply a line of hills; all points of the ridge crest are higher than the ground on both sides of the ridge.

ridge drawing

In both sketches of hill and ridge, they show both the human view of the feature as well as what that feature looks like on a topographical map.

Landforms are a rich source of names in the English language, many of which are used only in certain corners of the world. From French we get words like butte, plateau, cirque, and serac, while English thanks Spanish, usually from the Southwest of the United States, for words like arroyo, bajada, canyon (cañon), cuesta, mesa, and playa.

That’s a lot of landform names, but those are originally loanwords taken from Spanish, and English itself has many, many more such of its own, and of ancient origin. For from the British Isles come almost endless landform names, some seen only there, others that have made their way to the wider world (sometimes with different spellings), like:

ness, hope, shaw, beck, tor, thorpe, lough, voe, strath, pike, ghill, dale, gill, firth, porth, frith, ghyll, midden, adit, force, scaur, close, eyot, rigg, wold, law, dub, bache, toft, ait, knoll, cam, bourne, glen, born, dene, fen, lea, coppice, foss, sound, copse, low, thwaite, pant, side, coomb, mere, graff, moor, ford, kyle, groop, how, fold, glade, stank, vennel, vord, dingle, fell, bink, dimble, hurst, dess, sike, cairn, scree, tarn, down, brink, haugh, carr, kame, skerry, croft, dell, islet, air, brim, wheal, garth, burn, holm, ginnel, snicket.

So it is quite possible that a ridge and a hill might in general be called something else in various parts of the world, and even more likely that specific ones might be called something else in this or that corner of the wide world.

  • 1
    I don't believe a hill can be part of a larger mass; perhaps hillock. And the British Isles are called so to emphasize that there is more than one; several of your words are Irish, and quite a few from the Western or Northern Isles of Scotland. Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 12:35
  • Serac might also be a good word to include in this list. The "spurs" in the image of the fist are often formed by ice at high altitude.
    – tylerharms
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 7:02
  • @tylerharms Yes, serac is good; it is originally from French sérac not from the British Isles. (Then again, a few of those I listed may have Continental origins or cognates as well.)
    – tchrist
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 18:48

I'm coming at this from a mountain runner's perspective, and so if I were standing where this photo was taken and referencing those elevated positions, I would refer to them as rises.

That's using these two nominal definitions of "rise":

Rise (n): 1.extension upward 2. upward slope, as of ground or a road

I would tell someone to:

Follow the ridge from right to left until you see the rise with the radio tower at top...

That allows for the distinction between a high point and a clear summit, peak, or hilltop.


The skyline on the left may be a ridge. The green area on the right could be a large hummock, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as:

a protuberance or boss of earth, rock, etc., usually conical or dome-shaped, rising above the general level of a surface; a low hillock or knoll.

It would depend on just how big it was.

  • Ridge is definitely right for the one on the left. I’m not completely certain about the one on the left; I think that we might in some cases call it a peak if it is isolated enough and a local maximum, even though it is not the very topmost point of the entire mountain. I think a lot of people would just call it a hill or a bump, impoverished as we are now of geographical vocabulary compared to when everyone walked everywhere.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 13:21

What you have there on the right is a lesser topographic prominence of the mountain on the left. Some might call it a promontory, but I don't think that given the lay of the land, that's as good a fit.


I like plateau. Plateau (n): 1. An area of fairly level high ground.

  • 2
    Nominally you'd be right (a plateau is a kind of 'elevated area'). But the picture shows pointy elevated areas, and a plateaus is a wide, flat elevated area.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 12:38

A high point on a hill or mountain that is not the principal summit can be described as a top - for example in the list of Scottish hills known as the Munros. The feature on the right of the picture would seem to fit that description.

The more distant feature on the left looks like a ridge. Its highest point might also count as a top, or might be considered the summit of a separate hill depending on the height you would have to lose and regain to get there from the site of the picture.


I think peak would be appropriate.

considering the context & meaning of peak..

the pointed top of a mountain.

From Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary.

  • Welcome to EL&U. It looks like you have given a definition, but you haven't cited where it came from. Please edit the answer to add a source. Also, avoid the use of monospace code blocks (which are triggered when you indent text by four spaces). Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 10:17

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