What do you call something that is smaller than a mountain but bigger than a hill?

There is a small mountain near my hometown.

"Small mountain" sounds better than "low mountain" to me but I got confused on which word to use because some songs use high/highest mountains.

If both "small mountain" and "low mountain" are correct, which one sounds more natural to you?

"There is a low mountain near my hometown." sounds a little odd to me. I had a conversation with a non-native speaker (just like me) who likes hiking. In relation to hiking, would low mountain be better?

  • 2
    Hello, feylyer. Thanks for visiting ELU. The problem with your question is that although Everest is obviously a mountain and Bilbo lived under a hill, the distinction between hills and mountains gets very indistinct for less clear-cut cases, and is country-, region- and general terrain-dependent. Feb 12, 2018 at 0:10
  • 1
    Either "small" or "low" will work (along with several other terms). The terms carry connotations that are hard to characterize, however, so if it's critical you might want to consult with someone with a better command of the language (not that your command of the language is seriously lacking, based on your question).
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 12, 2018 at 0:21
  • In lyrics, to draw a cosy picture, I think small is fine. ! In contrast to a giant mountain.
    – FrankMK
    Feb 13, 2018 at 18:07
  • What's the minimum height for a mountain? And a mount?
    – Quidam
    Nov 18, 2019 at 3:02
  • Molehill comes to mind.
    – David
    Jan 24, 2020 at 18:08

3 Answers 3


A specific geological formation bridging the gap between ordinary hills and full-fledged mountains (and pleasant to hike):

They are a transition zone between plains and low relief hills to the adjacent topographically higher mountains, hills, and uplands...Foothills primarily border mountains...Another word for a foothill region is piedmont, characterized by relatively low, rolling hills with heights above sea level between 200 feet (50 m) and 800 feet to 1,000 feet (250 m to 300 m)... Essentially, the Piedmont is the remnant of several ancient mountain chains that have since been eroded away.

Piedmont and foothills (or foot-hills) are essentially the same thing geographically, although foot-hill is rooted in Old English, while piedmont is from Old Italian.

First known use of foothill: 1788

Some of the hikes are in the foothills and some are in the lower slopes of the mountains.


  • Unfortunately, "foothills" require larger mountains which they can "foot." The OP does not mention these at all.
    – Greybeard
    Feb 23, 2020 at 20:49

I agree that essentially "short mountain" and "low mountain" are synonymous, but there are a few connotations associated with both.

As far as I understand it, it really depends on the context of the mountains you're describing. "Short" tells us that there may be taller mountains nearby, and its slope may be steeper than a typical foothill. A "low" mountain would be one that has an easier slope, and is usually surrounded by similarly low mountains, but is still taller than a foothill.

If you can point out a low mountain among a mountain range, I'd go for "short", but if it's an average short mountain among many, you can use "low". I hope that's clear! :)

  • A "low" mountain would be one that has an easier slope so if you had two mountains of equal height and one had an "easier slope" than the other, the first would be a low mountain and the other would be a short mountain? Jan 24, 2020 at 16:47
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    OP doesn't mention 'short mountain', and these Google 2-grams show that it's far from idiomatic (and most hits are for the actual 'Short Mountain', or false positives like 'short mountain walks'. ELU much prefers answers with supporting references, as those without usually come across as (annd can be) mere opinion. Jan 24, 2020 at 16:51

Both of those are valid phrasings.

"Low mountain" feels a bit usual to me, and indeed Google ngrams shows that it is a much less-usual phrasing. "Small mountain" and "little mountain" are much more common.

If I was telling someone about a hike on a small mountain, I might call it "more of a hill, really..."

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