Describing landscapes

by Kate Woodford

john finney photography/Moment/Getty
john finney photography/Moment/Getty

Have you ever wanted to describe an area of the countryside but found you didn’t have the right words? If so, we’ll fix that this week with a look at words and phrases that we use to describe different landscapes.

To start with the most basic description, an area of land that is mainly covered with grass or trees is often described as green: There are so few green spaces in the city. An area that is especially green, in a way that is attractive, may also be described as lush: lush green valleys. A more literary word for this is verdant: All around her were verdant meadows.

Meanwhile, a landscape that has few or no plants because there is so little rain may be described as arid: Few animals can survive in this arid desert landscape. (A technical description for an area that has little rain but is not completely dry is semi-arid: a semi-arid zone.)

Land that is extremely dry because rain has not fallen for a long time is often said to be parched: parched earth/fields. Sun-baked, meanwhile, describes land that is hard and dry because it has received so little rain for so long: The sun-baked earth was full of cracks.

Other words describe the shape of the land. A hilly area has lots of hills: The countryside round here is very hilly. The phrase rolling hills is often used in descriptions of attractive landscapes with many gentle hills: Everywhere you look, there are rolling hills. The rather literary word undulating is also used to describe this type of landscape: This picturesque village is surrounded by undulating hills.

Meanwhile, a landscape with bigger hills – mountains – is mountainous: a mountainous region. If those mountains have snow on the top, they are often referred to as snow-capped: a snow-capped mountain range.

Still with the shape of the land, craggy describes an area with lots of rocks sticking out: a craggy coastline. Rugged is very similar, describing an area of land that is wild and not flat: These photographs really capture the rugged landscape of the region.

Of course, not all landscapes are green and hilly. An area may be flat. If there are no trees, hills or other interesting features, it may appear rather featureless: It was a grey, featureless landscape.

Two negative adjectives that are sometimes used to describe featureless landscapes are bleak and desolate. Both are used for areas of the countryside that seem empty and cold, with nothing pleasant to look at: The house stands on a bleak hilltop.

Another adjective sometimes used in this context is windswept. A windswept area of land has no trees or other high structures to protect it from the wind: The picture shows a desolate, windswept landscape.

When were you last out in the countryside? How would you describe the landscape?

45 thoughts on “Describing landscapes

  1. I was born in the countryside so my village is surrounded by beautiful green landscapes. It’s situated near the delta of the river Volga which is the longest river in Europe. Though a little bit far from the river there are sun-baked steppes. Some people find them featureless but I think every place on the Earth has its own charm. You can even see barkhan dunes there. It’s an amazing view.
    Last month I spent my holidays in Phuket, Thailand. It has so wonderful hilly landscape. There are so many jaw-dropping views there. It’s worth to be seen.
    Thank you for your posts! They all are very helpful!

  2. Pingback: Describing landscapes – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Nov 16, 2016) | Editorial Words

  3. Felipe Sáez

    My live in Cauquenes a little town in Chile , this place is surrounded by trees and lush green areas, rather verdant meadows, my country also has the most arid desert in the world “Atacama Desert” amazing place to visit; for the most part of the center of the country we can find a semi-arid zone, mind-blowing beaches, rivers and rolling hills all converging in the central zone (which I live) quite mountainous by the way.

    Thank you for the help with my vocabulary. regards.

  4. Pingback: Describing landscapes | Editorials Today

  5. Hadeel Hammam

    When I go to Tarhona, my countryside, the green spaces (the farms) in front of my eyes, the blue spaces (the sky) above my head and the golden spaces (the sand dune) behind my back is the poem that makes me dance with the pleasure of colours.

    1. leila

      I live in a small town and like most of our inhabitants I also live in a block of flats. It doesn’t sound interesting at all but when I look out of the window I can see Black Sea coastline, I can sea its “mood” changing, its melting sunset and from the other window I can see mountains and today they are snow-capped they seem to exhale frosty air on our town. When I see these views I feel the eternity of life and nothing can trouble me.

  6. leila

    I live in a small town and like most of our inhabitants I also live in a block of flats. It doesn’t sound interesting at all but when I look out of the window I can see Black Sea coastline, I can sea its “mood” changing, its melting sunset and from the other window I can see mountains and today they are snow-capped they seem to exhale frosty air on our town. When I see these views I feel the eternity of life and nothing can trouble me.

  7. JShaN

    I live in the main part of the city in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. I hardly find green spaces in the city. But God’s grace there is a park nearby where one can find some trees.

  8. Wasim Habash

    I used to live in a mountainous city, Amman – Jordan. Around 3 millions people is living on a 7 mountains. Transportation is not that easy in the city, in which lots of people still using long concrete stairs to move.

  9. Elehinle Olatunbosun Nuel

    I am from Ipele in Nigeria, a beautiful small town surrounded by hills. Everywhere you turn your eyes, you see rolling hills so green and full of life. Should you move towards the eastern part of the town, you will encounter different species of trees hanging on the hills in a way that one will find it difficult to explain the friendship between nature and creation. Running slowing is a stream that runs from up one of the hills to form a pool at the lower valley. The pool is known as Ashiyan. At the other side and near the pool is another hill from under which a small spring do come out to form a small pool called Lala. The two pools are together but their water do not mix. Lala’s water is so crystal clear that people mostly take it for drinking while that of Ashiyan is brownish. It was rumored that if the two waters are put in the same glass bottle, the bottle will break. A remarkable observation is that the butterflies playing on the two pools are equally different as well. Colourful butterflies can be seen on Ashiyan while only white butterflies are seen on Lala. The breeze in the area is always lovingly cool no matter how hot the heat of the sunshine. Adding to the scene of the place are the melodious and beautiful sounds coming from the birds on the surrounding trees. The place possesses its own remarkable and special way of charming that is so striking.

  10. Manjeet

    I live in Noida, India and it has very few green spaces left due to rapid urbanisation and industrialization. However, we can get to see lush in few parks but that is not sufficient for a healthy environment.

  11. Lore

    I live in hilly area, which could be described as countryside. The town is surrounded by trees and wood. There is many rolling hill and lush green landscapes.

  12. meetu

    please write about describing wind movement ( like windy day …) and also for rivers.
    Thankyou for this post . It is very helpful

  13. gurdeep singh

    Region where i live is featureless. i would love to reside near hilly or mountainous areas.however,in my country there is a huge lack of green spaces.

  14. IworshiptheLord

    Thank you very much, that was interesting !

    Could you make an article about words describing the beauty of landscapes, like bucolic (or pastoral), and with adjectives or adverbs who help to imagine this beauty, like “as far as the eye can see”, please ?
    Thank you ! 😉

  15. Liang

    My hometown is a small village located in southeast of China where hilly spaces are everywhere covered with lush green forest. Far away from bustling city, inhabitants are living a slow-paced life-style here. Geographically, there is no mountain, no particularly worth-mentioning landscape. It would be a generally a flat and featureless land if it were without green spaces. Characterizing by a multitude of elderly people as the young are seeking prosperous in big city, my hometown has became a place without vitality.

  16. Pingback: Describing landscapes – About Words – Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog | Qaawyrd-english

  17. Mihaela

    One of the most charming and picturesque places I’ve ever visited is by far the legendary Peles Castle, located nearby Sinaia, a mountainous Romania’s region. Well-known for being the first castle in Europe on having electricity, central heating, an elevator and even a mobile glass ceiling, among other innovative things, it’s surrounded by glamorous and lush gardens full of fantastic statues and vantage points with breathtaking views. If you want to escape the daily pressures of life, enjoying fascinatingly verdant and unspoilt places, Peles Castle and its undulating hills is definitely the one I’d recommend visiting. Exceeds all visitor’s expectations.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Well, Mihaela, you’ve made me really want to visit it! It sounds fantastic. Best wishes from Cambridge.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi! Thank you so much! We haven’t written any more specifically on this theme, but we publish one every week (on a Wednesday) so do keep checking in. Also, you can search for posts containing specific words using the search facility on the right. Best wishes from Cambridge!

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