Important Geography Terms for UPSC Preparation

Geography terms

Geography is one of the most exciting subjects in UPSC’s syllabus. Unlike other topics, geography feels more relatable, and the examples can be found around us. But when you start studying Geography for UPSC Preparation, you’ll come across the terms that are not self-explanatory. Here in this article, we’ve compiled a list of the most important terms in Geography for UPSC preparation. These terms will surely improve your knowledge of geography. You should also try to incorporate such words in your writing to give the impression that you have a thorough understanding of the subject. 

It is not possible to include all the possible terms in geography in a single article, so we’ve tried to include the most important and most frequently used words. You can suggest new additions to the list by commenting the phrases we haven’t covered yet. We’re open to the feedback by our readers.

So let’s start our list of the most important terms in Geography for UPSC preparation.


Geography is a combination of words ‘Geo’, which means earth, and ‘Graphy’, which means study. Thus, the word Geography is the study of the earth. Mostly we concentrate on the surface of the earth.


The word morph means formation. Geomorphology, hence, means the science that is behind the formation of geological structures like mountains, plateaus, oceans, etc. 


The study and designing of the maps is known as Cartography. 

Geologic Map:

A map that denotes the geological features like the folds and faults present on the surface of the earth, the presence of different types of rocks and minerals and other resources is known as a Geological map. The area of the map is coloured according to the available resources or the type of formation. These maps are useful in detecting abnormalities in the surface to prevent disasters and also to address geological and hydrological issues.

Political Map:

A map that denotes the borders of the countries and the states is called a political map. There are no specific details apart from the location of major cities and the boundaries marking the area of the country and the states. An example of such a map would be a normal map that you usually see with all the borders of all the states in India and the boundaries of India with its neighbouring countries. 

Geography terms

Physical Map:

Physical maps give a detailed outlook of the surface of the earth at a specific place. These maps denote the mountains, rivers, and other natural bodies. Generally, the green colour is used to show lower elevations, and the brown colour is used to show higher altitudes. Additionally, water bodies are represented with the colour blue.

Topographic Map:

A physical map and a topographic map are very similar but differ in the nature of their representation. Both these maps show the geological features of a location, but instead of colours, a topographic map uses contour lines to depict the changes in the elevation of a particular area. These contour lines are spaced at regular intervals to show how the elevation changes gradually. Generally, if the lines are close together instead of regular intervals, it means the terrain of the zone is very steep. In flat areas, the contour lines are spread apart. 

Climate Map:

As the name specifies, a climate map shows the climate pattern of a certain area. Different colours represent the changes in temperature. The colder temperatures have a blue hue, and the hotter places have a red hue that darkens with the increase in temperature. These maps can be used to predict the changes in weather with the position and flow of wind and clouds. An example of climate maps would be the maps we usually see on TV during the weather forecast. 

Economic or Resource Map

Economic or Resource map is used to show the available natural resources in an area, or commercial activities happening in an area. These maps use different symbols and colours to depict various resources or activities. You can use these maps to see the changes in trends of a particular area.

Road Map:

The road map is the most common map we use for navigation. ‘Google Maps’ is a perfect example of road maps. These maps show the major roads and famous landmarks. Depending on the level of detail and the area covered, these maps can include minor roads too. For example, if you are looking at a road map of India, you will only notice major highways and some country roads. But if you are looking at a state level or area specific map, you will see more details in the minor rural routes.

Thematic Maps:

Thematic maps are the maps designed for a particular purpose. These maps may ignore the correct depiction of area, boundaries, terrain, or resources. The only goal of these maps is to depict the particular theme they are focussed on. For example, a map that shows the population density in comparison to a reference point. Such maps are used only for research purposes and are not used very often. 

Bathymetric Map:

We don’t have maps only for the land. Innovation in technology has allowed us to expand our horizons and study unimaginable locations. A bathymetric map is an example of the evolution of technology in geography. This map depicts the bottom of a water body with the help of depth contours, also known as isobaths.


If you have read maps, you must have noticed lines going across the surface. The horizontal lines that divide the area of the map show the angular distance of the locations from the equator. This angular distance is called latitude. The farther up or down you go from the equator, the more your latitude increases. The latitude of North and South poles is 90°.


The vertical lines that cover the area of the map are the longitude lines. These lines represent the angular distance of a location in reference to the Prime Meridian. The prime meridian is considered the 0° and the places to the east or west of the prime meridian have increasing degrees of longitude. The Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean is situated exactly opposite to the Prime Meridian and hence has a longitude of 180°.

Geographical Coordinate System:

A system that uses the latitudes and longitudes to mention the location of a point on the globe. The coordinates of that point are given by the degree of latitude and longitude.

North Magnetic Pole:

The earth is inclined on its axis, so the magnetic north that our compass needle points to is a little different from the exact north. If you reach the magnetic north pole, the compass needle will orient itself vertically. The location of the North Magnetic Pole keeps changing over time. At present, it is located near Northern Canada.

Eastern Hemisphere:

The Eastern Hemisphere is the part of the earth that is to the east of the Prime Meridian. It consists of Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Western Hemisphere:

The Western Hemisphere is located to the left of the Prime Meridian. It is another name for the Americas (or the New World) because only American continents constitute most of the west of the Prime Meridian. 


Azimuth is an angle that a line makes with a meridian (a line of longitude), going clockwise from north.


A water body that is surrounded by land is known as a bay. 


A gulf looks similar to a bay, but the difference lies in their sizes. Unlike a bay, a gulf is formed when a part of the ocean or sea is surrounded by land. Thus, a gulf is usually a lot bigger than the bay.


A small part of the land that is sticking out in a sea or ocean is called a cape. The Rameswaram area of India is an example of a cape.


A cove is a horse-shoe like the formation of the extended land in the sea. The land surrounds the water of the sea but doesn’t enclose it completely. 


The place where a river enters the sea or ocean is known as Estuary


The land surrounded by water on three sides is known as Peninsula. For example, the Southern part of India is also called the Indian Peninsula. 


A strait is like a connecting bridge between two water bodies. It is a narrow channel that connects two large water bodies like lakes, rivers, seas, etc.


The part of the earth that supports life and is inhabited by living organisms is called a Biosphere. The biggest Biospheres on Earth is home to most of the diverse species of flora and fauna. 

Greenhouse effect: 

The continuous rise in the temperature of our planet because of harmful gasses like Carbon Dioxide. The greenhouse effect isn’t caused by the greenhouses though. It earned its name because just like a greenhouse, harmful gasses trap the heat inside the atmosphere of the earth and increasing the temperature as a result.


A large area created by combining multiple towns and cities is called a conurbation. 

So, these were some terms in Geography for UPSC Preparation that you shouldn’t ignore. As we said earlier, this is not a complete list of the Geography terminology. We will keep updating this list with the help of the suggestions from our readers. So, keep commenting on your ideas and keep following IAS ke Funde. Link

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