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Hill upon which the village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence is built, in Southern France Vue du village de Saint-Paul-de-Vence depuis la route de La Colle.jpg
Hill upon which the village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence is built, in Southern France

A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. It often has a distinct summit.



Puijo Hill in Kuopio, Finland Puijon maki.JPG
Puijo Hill in Kuopio, Finland
Chocolate Hills of the Philippines Chocolate Hills.jpg
Chocolate Hills of the Philippines
Hills in Tuscany, Italy Tuscan views at sunset (5790020702).jpg
Hills in Tuscany, Italy

The distinction between a hill and a mountain is unclear and largely subjective, but a hill is universally considered to be not as tall, or as steep as a mountain.

Geographers historically regarded mountains as hills greater than 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) above sea level, which formed the basis of the plot of the 1995 film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain . In contrast, hillwalkers have tended to regard mountains as peaks 2,000 feet (610  m ) above sea level: the Oxford English Dictionary also suggests a limit of 2,000 feet (610  m ) and Whittow [1] states "Some authorities regard eminences above 600 m (1,969 ft) as mountains, those below being referred to as hills." Today, a mountain is usually defined in the UK and Ireland as any summit at least 2,000 feet or 610 meters high, [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] while the official UK government's definition of a mountain is a summit of 600 meters (1,969 feet) or higher. [7] Some definitions include a topographical prominence requirement, typically 100 feet (30.5 m) or 500 feet (152.4 m). [4] In practice, mountains in Scotland are frequently referred to as "hills" no matter what their height, as reflected in names such as the Cuillin Hills and the Torridon Hills . In Wales, the distinction is more a term of land use and appearance and has nothing to do with height.

Rolling Hills Paranal Rolling Hills Paranal.jpg
Rolling Hills Paranal

For a while, the U.S. defined a mountain as being 1,000 feet (304.8 m) or more tall. Any similar landform lower than this height was considered a hill. The United States Geological Survey (USGS), however, has concluded that these terms do not in fact have technical definitions in the U.S. [9]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia defined "hill" as an upland with a relative height up to 200 m (660 ft). [10]

A hillock is a small hill. Other words include knoll and (in Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England) its variant, knowe. [11] Artificial hills may be referred to by a variety of technical names, including mound and tumulus.

Hills of the Judean Desert Judea 2 by David Shankbone.jpg
Hills of the Judean Desert

Hills may form through geomorphic phenomena: faulting, erosion of larger landforms such as mountains and movement and deposition of sediment by glaciers (notably moraines and drumlins or by erosion exposing solid rock which then weathers down into a hill). The rounded peaks of hills results from the diffusive movement of soil and regolith covering the hill, a process known as downhill creep.

Various names used to describe types of hill, based on appearance and method of formation. Many such names originated in one geographical region to describe a type of hill formation peculiar to that region, though the names are often adopted by geologists and used in a wider geographical context. These include:

Historical significance

Clouds over hills in Steptoe, Washington Clouds over hills.jpg
Clouds over hills in Steptoe, Washington
Hill in Mysore Mysore 1 06.jpg
Hill in Mysore

Many settlements were originally built on hills, either to avoid floods (particularly if they were near a large body of water), or for defense (since they offer a good view of the surrounding land and require would-be attackers to fight uphill), or to avoid densely forested areas. For example, Ancient Rome was built on seven hills, protecting it from invaders.

Some settlements, particularly in the Middle East, are located on artificial hills consisting of debris (particularly mud bricks) that has accumulated over many generations. Such a location is known as a "tell". [12]

In northern Europe, many ancient monuments are sited in heaps.[ clarification needed ] Some of these are defensive structures (such as the hill-forts of the Iron Age), but others appear to have hardly any significance. In Britain, many churches at the tops of hills are thought to have been built on the sites of earlier pagan holy places. The National Cathedral in Washington, DC has followed this tradition and was built on the highest hill in that city.[ citation needed ]

Military significance

The Battle of Bunker Hill Bunker Hill by Pyle.jpg
The Battle of Bunker Hill

Hills provide a major advantage to an army, giving them an elevated firing position and forcing an opposing army to charge uphill to attack them. They may also conceal forces behind them, allowing a force to lie in wait on the crest of a hill, using that crest for cover, and firing on unsuspecting attackers as they broach the hilltop. As a result, conventional military strategies often demand possession of high ground.

Hills have been the sites of many noted battles, such as the first recorded military conflict in Scotland known as the battle of Mons Graupius. Modern conflicts include the Battle of Bunker Hill (which was actually fought on Breed's Hill) in the American War of Independence and Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill in the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the American Civil War.

The Battle of San Juan Hill in the Spanish–American War won Americans control of Santiago. The Battle of Alesia was also fought from a hilltop fort. Fighting on Mamayev Kurgan during the Battle of Stalingrad and the Umurbrogol Pocket in the Battle of Peleliu were also examples of bloody fighting for high ground. Another recent example is the Kargil War between India and Pakistan. The Great Wall of China is also an example of an advantage provider. It is built on mountain tops, and was meant to defend against invaders from the north, and among others, Mongolians.

Sports and games

Hillwalkers on Beinn Dearg, Scotland Beinn dearg torridon.jpg
Hillwalkers on Beinn Dearg, Scotland
An example of a golf course in England that has hills Golf bunkers Filton.jpg
An example of a golf course in England that has hills

Hillwalking is a British English term for a form of hiking which involves the ascent of hills. The activity is usually distinguished from mountaineering as it does not involve ropes or technically difficult rock climbing, although the terms mountain and hill are often used interchangeably in Britain. Hillwalking is popular in hilly areas such as the English Peak District and the Scottish Highlands. Many hills are categorized according to relative height or other criteria and feature on lists named after mountaineers, such as Munros (Scotland) and Wainwrights (England). Specific activities such as "peak bagging" (or "Munro bagging") involve climbing hills on these lists with the aim of eventually climbing every hill on the list.

Cheese rolling is an annual event in the West Country of England which involves rolling a wheel of cheese down a hill. Contestants stand at the top and chase the wheel of cheese to the bottom. The winner, the one who catches the cheese, gets to keep the wheel of cheese as a prize.[ citation needed ]

Notable artificial hills

See also

Related Research Articles

Mountain A large landform that rises fairly steeply above the surrounding land over a limited area

A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area, and is larger than a hill, typically rising at least 300 metres above the surrounding land. A few mountains are isolated summits, but most occur in mountain ranges.

Munro Scottish peak over 3,000 ft and listed on the SMC tables

A Munro is defined as a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet (914.4 m), and which is on the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) official list of Munros; there is no explicit topographical prominence requirement. The best known Munro is Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 4,413 feet (1,345 m).


A drumlin, from the Irish word droimnín, first recorded in 1833, in the classical sense is an elongated hill in the shape of an inverted spoon or half-buried egg formed by glacial ice acting on underlying unconsolidated till or ground moraine. Assemblages of drumlins are referred to as fields or swarms; they can create a landscape which is often described as having a 'basket of eggs topography'.

Landforms are categorized by characteristic physical attributes such as their creating process, shape, elevation, slope, orientation, rock exposure, and soil type.


Bennachie is a range of hills in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It has several tops, the highest of which, Oxen Craig, has a height of 528 metres (1,732 ft). Though not particularly high, compared to other peaks within Scotland, the mountain is very prominent, owing to its isolation and the relative flatness of the surrounding terrain, and dominates the skyline from several viewpoints.

Lists of mountains in Ireland Highest mountains in Ireland

In these lists of mountains in Ireland, those within Northern Ireland, or on the Republic of Ireland – United Kingdom border, are marked with an asterisk, while the rest are within the Republic of Ireland. Where mountains are ranked by height, the definition of the topographical prominence used to classify the mountain, is noted. In British definitions, a height of 600 metres (1,969 ft) is required for a mountain, whereas in Ireland, a lower threshold of 500 metres (1,640 ft) is sometimes advocated.

Mountains and hills of Scotland

Scotland is the most mountainous country in the United Kingdom. Scotland's mountain ranges can be divided, in a roughly north to south direction, into: the Scottish Highlands and the Central Belt and Southern Uplands in the Scottish Lowlands. The highlands contains the country's main mountain ranges, but many hills and mountains are to be found south of these as well. The highlands includes Britain's loftiest peaks, the Munros, the highest being Ben Nevis at 1,344.53 m. The below lists are not exhaustive; there are countless subranges throughout the country.

Lists of mountains and hills in the British Isles Highest mountains in the British Isles

The mountains and hills of the British Isles are categorised into various lists based on different combinations of elevation, prominence, and other criteria such as isolation. These lists are used for peak bagging, whereby hillwalkers attempt to reach all the summits on a given list, the oldest being the 282 Munros in Scotland, created in 1891.

Col The lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks

In geomorphology, a col is the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks. It may also be called a gap. Particularly rugged and forbidding cols in the terrain are usually referred to as notches. They are generally unsuitable as mountain passes, but are occasionally crossed by mule tracks or climbers' routes. The term col tends to be associated more with mountain rather than hill ranges.

Mangerton Mountain Mountain in Killarney, Ireland

Mangerton or Mangerton Mountain, at 838 metres (2,749 ft), is the 19th-highest peak in Ireland on the Arderin list, and the 26th–highest mountain according to the Vandeleur-Lynam list. Mangerton is the tallest mountain in the Mangerton Mountain Group, also called the Mangerton Mountains or the Mountains of East Kerry, a range that includes five other major mountains that have a height above 2,000 feet (610 m). Mangerton's western slopes lie within the Killarney National Park. On Mangerton's north-western face lies a deep corrie lake called the Devil's Punchbowl, which is a popular scenic destination for hill walkers; although the mountain is often overlooked by walkers due to the proximity of its more scenic and accessible neighbour, Torc Mountain. The far northern slopes of Mangerton was the site of an important 13th-century battle between the Mac Cárthaigh, and the FitzGeralds, known as the "Tooreencormick battle site".

A moot hill or mons placiti is a hill or mound historically used as an assembly or meeting place, as a moot hall is a meeting or assembly building, also traditionally to decide local issues. In early medieval Britain, such hills were used for "moots," meetings of local people to settle local business. Among other things, proclamations might be read; decisions might be taken; court cases might be settled at a moot. Although some moot hills were naturally occurring features or had been created long before as burial mounds, others were purpose-built.

Arra Mountains

The Arra Mountains or Arra Hills are situated in County Tipperary in Ireland, between the towns of Nenagh and Ballina, south east of Lough Derg (Shannon) and north of the M7 Motorway.

Saddle (landform)

The saddle between two hills is the region surrounding the highest point of the lowest point on the line tracing the drainage divide connecting the peaks. When, and if, the saddle is navigable, even if only on foot, the saddle of a (optimal) pass between the two massifs, is the area generally found around the lowest route on which one could pass between the two summits, which includes that point which is a mathematically when graphed a relative high along one axis, and a relative low in the perpendicular axis, simultaneously; that point being by definition the col of the saddle.

Hills in the Puget Lowland, between the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains, including the entire Seattle metropolitan area, are generally between 350–450 feet (110–140 m) and rarely more than 500 feet (150 m) above sea level. Hills are often notable geologically and for social reasons, such as the seven hills of Seattle.


  1. Whittow, John (1984). Dictionary of Physical Geography. London: Penguin, 2004, p. 352. ISBN   0-14-051094-X.
  2. Nuttall, John & Anne (2008). The Mountains of England & Wales - Volume 2: England (3rd ed.). Milnthorpe, Cumbria: Cicerone. ISBN   978-1-85284-037-2.
  3. "Survey turns hill into a mountain". BBC News. 18 September 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  4. 1 2 "A Mountain is a Mountain - isn't it?". www.go4awalk.com. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  5. mountain at dictionary.reference.com. Accessed on 3 February 2013.
  6. Wilson, Peter (2001). ‘’Listing the Irish hills and mountains’’ in ‘’Irish Geography’’, Vol 34(1), University of Ulster, Coleraine, p. 89.
  7. What is a “Mountain”? Mynydd Graig Goch and all that… Archived 30 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine at Metric Views. Accessed on 3 February 2013.
  8. "Rolling Hills". www.eso.org. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  9. "What is the Difference Between a Mountain and a Hill?". www.wisegeek.com. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  10. Hill at the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
  11. Knowe, Random House Dictionary at dictionary.com
  12. Wilkinson, T.J. Archaeological landscapes of the near east. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 2003, 226.
  13. Helsingin karttapalvelu (in Finnish)
  14. "Blackstrap Provincial Park". Government of Saskatchewan. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  15. "The Very Large Telescope". Telescopes and Instruments. ESO. Retrieved 10 August 2011.