Geomorphology definition - Meaning and Scope

We will discuss about meaning, definition, and scope of geomorphology from this article.

Geomorphology - Meaning, Definition, and Scope

Introduction to Geomorphology

Geomorphology is an important branch in physical geography. It is concerned with the scientific study of the origin, and evolution of relief of the earth's surface.

Meaning of geomorphology

The word Geomorphology derived from three Greek words, i.e., ‘geo’ means earth, ‘morphe’ means shape and ‘logos’ means study. Hence, it is defined as the scientific description of the various landforms.

Geomorphology definition

The following are some geomorphology definitions forwarded by different geographers:
According to Worcester, “It is the interpretation, description of relief features of the earth.”

In the word of Stark, “It is essentially the study of landforms.” He remarks that landform produces by the process of erosion.

According to Bloom, ”It is the systematic description and analysis of the landscape.” According to him, it also includes both structure and process.

From the above geomorphology definitions, it has been seen that there is a very special place for geomorphology in physical geography. As physical geography includes earth relief, such as plains, plateaus, mountains, hills, lakes, etc. It is also concerned with the various relief of the earth's surface.

Geomorphology - Meaning, Definition, and Scope


Scope of geomorphology

Geomorphology is the scientific study of the surface of the earth involving an interpretative description of landforms, their origin and development and nature and mechanism of the geomorphology process which evolves the landforms with a view that all landforms can be relative to a particular or set of processes. It is the systematic analysis of the origin, evolution and present pattern of earth relief. It can be divided into three sub-division and its division includes some physical processes. Those are – a) Structure, b) Process, c) Classification and evolution of landforms. Structure, process, and classification and evolution are all dynamic. Their interactions are therefore highly complex and the nature and intensity of the interactions change with time and place.


Structure is primarily determined by internal forces such as plate tectonics, volcanic action, earth crust, fold, and faulted mountain, etc. which are responsible for the evolution of landforms. The structure includes the constitution of the earth’s crust, the disposition of the continents and ocean basins, the nature of rocks, the stratigraphic arrangement of rocks and their tectonic displacement and deformation, the building up of mountains, folds and faults and so on.


The process is essentially related to external forces which are responsible for the shape of landforms. It includes earth gravity, wind, current, wave, tide, etc. which are also an important agent for the formation of various relief of the earth surface. It also includes the geological structure of the landforms. The most universal of these forces is gravity which regulates the downward movement of materials on the surface of the earth. Sometimes the influence of gravity is direct and apparent but by and large, it exerts its influence indirectly through the medium of running water, glaciers, and solifluction. Through this process, debris is transported from higher to lower levels resulting ultimately in the reduction of relief. In addition to gravitational movements, tangential movements are also important in the atmosphere and hydrosphere, and these can be observed in winds, currents, waves, and tides.

Classification and evolution of landforms

Geomorphology also includes the classification and evolution of landforms. It is classified as various relief of the earth's surface in many categories. Those are –

Relief features of the first order

It includes two major earth surfaces, i.e., continental platform and ocean basins. The consideration and interpretation of worldwide erosion surfaces require the description and analysis of the characteristics and evolution of continents and ocean basins. Thus, continents and ocean basins become the relief of the first order. The consideration of continental drift, in one way or the other, caused either by the forces coming from within the earth or from outer sources become desirable or the analysis of major geomorphological of the earth’s surface. Plate tectonics help in understanding the origin of continents and ocean basins.

Relief features of the second order

It includes a various surface which is developed over a continent or part thereof as a mountain, plateaus, lakes, rift valley, faults, etc. relief of the earth’s order. This category includes the landforms which are developed on second-order relief by exogenesis processes are a glacial valley, river valley, gorge, karsts topography, floodplain, delta, and many other smaller landforms. They are essentially constructional and provide the basis for the development of the relief of the third order.

Relief features of the third order

The lesser features which develop on the second-order relief are included in the relief of the third order. These landforms may be erosional – e.g., glacial valley, river valley, karst valley, cirques, canyons, gorges, terraces, yardangs, sea cliffs, etc., depositional – e.g. drumlins, eskers, flood plains, natural levees, delta, sea beaches, sand dunes, stalactites, stalagmites, etc., residual – e.g. monadnocks, inselbergs or bornhardts, etc. and sometimes minor tectonic features (by endogenetic forces). A study of the relief of the third-order occupies a lot of space in geomorphology and the degradational, as well as the aggradational features produced by these agencies and processes, are analyzed in great detail.

Geomorphology - Meaning, Definition, and Scope



Thus, it has been seen from Geomorphology definition - Meaning and Scope that geomorphology has a special place in the physical geographical study. As it includes various topics related to physical geography. Therefore, it has an important place in physical geography.       

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