Geography of the United States: Vocabulary

Social Studies American History Geography of the United States Geography of the United States: Vocabulary
Students interact with vocabulary words that they will encounter throughout Unit 1: Geography of the United States.

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In this experience, students interact with vocabulary words that they will encounter throughout Unit 1: Geography of the United States.

Estimated duration: 30–40 minutes


  • Learn vocabulary related to the study of geography of the United States.

Unit Vocabulary

Before you begin the study of the history of the United States, you will learn about its geography. The United States is the fourth largest country in the world, after Russia, Canada, and China.


  • Learn vocabulary related to the study of geography of the United States.

globe shown from a northern angle, with the United States marked in green

The United States

First, let’s learn some of the words that you will use in this unit.


  • compass rose: a visual display of the cardinal directions on the map
  • culture: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and arts that characterizes a group of people
  • distribution: the way in which something is spread out
  • geographic factor: physical or human condition that affects the environment of places and regions
  • grid system: a map feature that helps find locations on a map
  • landform: a natural physical feature on Earth’s surface
  • legend: an explanation of the symbols appearing on a chart or map; also called a key
  • political boundary: an imaginary line separating two or more political units, such as countries or states, from one another
  • region: a physical area that is unified by a common characteristic, such as political unity, language, ethnic identification, or common climate patterns
  • rural: areas with limited human population such as small town and villages, countryside, and agricultural settlement
  • scale: the ratio of the distance on the map to that of the actual distance on the ground
  • settlement pattern: the physical arrangement seen by looking at where people live
  • suburban: residential towns or cities with lower population density and within easy commuting distance of larger cities
  • urban: towns and cities with dense population and no agricultural activities


The title of this unit also has a word that you should know: geography. The root of the word comes from the Greek geo, which means Earth. The suffix –graphy means a field of study. So geography is the study of Earth.

Post another word that uses the root geo.

Post your answer

Sample answers: geology, geographical, geometry, apogee or perigee. If students have a hard time coming up with one of these words, tell them to post a word that has the suffix graphy. Sample answers: biography, photography.

Students might be interested to know that the name George is from an ancient Greek word for farmer or worker of the earth, and the name Georgia means a land of farmers.

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