plain: Wikis

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]] with relatively high relief) in Venezuela]]

In geography, a plain is an area of land with relatively high relief, as well as flat. Prairies and steppes are types of plains, and the archetype for a plain is often thought of as a grassland, but plains in their natural state may also be covered in shrublands, woodland and forest, or vegetation may be absent in the case of sandy or stony plains in hot deserts. Types of flatlands for which the term is not generally used include those covered entirely and permanently by swamps, marshes, playas, or ice sheets.

Plains occur as lowlands and at the bottoms of valleys but also on plateaus at high elevations. In a valley, a plain is enclosed on two sides but in other cases a plain may be delineated by a complete or partial ring of hills, by mountains or cliffs. Where a geological region contains more than one plain, they may be connected by a pass (sometime termed a gap). Plains may have been formed from flowing lava, deposited by water, ice or wind, or formed by erosion by these agents from hills and mountains.

Plains in many areas are important for agriculture, because where the soils were deposited as sediments they may be deep and fertile, and the flatness facilitates mechanization of crop production; or because they support grasslands which provide good grazing for livestock.


Types of terrestrial plains

, New South Wales, Australia]]

  • Coastal plain, an area of low-lying land adjacent to a sea; the term is used especially where they contrast with hills, mountains or plateaux further inland.
  • Fluvial plains are formed by rivers, and may be one of these overlapping types:
    • Flood plain, adjacent to a stream, river, lake or wetland that experiences occasional or periodic flooding.
    • Alluvial plain, formed over a long period of time by a river depositing sediment on its floodplain or bed which becomes alluvial soil. The difference between a floodplain and an alluvial plain is that the floodplain represents the area experiencing flooding fairly regularly in the present or recently, whereas an alluvial plain includes areas where the floodplain is now and used to be, or areas which only experience flooding a few times a century.
    • Scroll plain, a plain through which a river meanders with a very low gradient.
  • Lacustrine plain, a plain that originally formed in a lacustrine environment, that is, as the bed of a lake.
  • Lava plain, formed by sheets of flowing lava.
  • Glacial plains are formed by the movement of glaciers under the force of gravity:
    • Till plain, a plain of glacial till that forms when a sheet of ice becomes detached from the main body of a glacier and melts in place depositing the sediments it carries. Till plains are composed of unsorted material (till) of all sizes.
    • Sandur (plural sandar), a glacial outwash plain formed of sediments deposited by meltwater at the terminus of a glacier. Sandar consist mainly of stratified (layered and sorted) gravel and sand.

Other types

The term may also be used for flat areas of the ocean floor or for flat areas on moons and planets.

  • Abyssal plain, a flat or very gently sloping area of the deep ocean basin floor.

See also



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Most common English words: unless « seeing « won't « #631: plain » rich » carry » immediately


Etymology 1

From Old French plain, from Latin plānus (flat, even, level, plain).


a plain bagel

plain (comparative plainer, superlative plainest)

  1. ordinary; lacking adornment or ornamentation.
  2. (food) unseasoned
    Would you like a poppy bagel or a plain bagel?
  3. (computing) containing no non-printing characters; ASCII code values 32 through 126.
Derived terms
Related terms


plain (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. (colloquial) Simply
    It was just plain stupid.

Etymology 2

From French plaindre (to complain)


to plain

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to plain (third-person singular simple present plains, present participle plaining, simple past and past participle plained)

  1. to lament, bewail
    • Alfred Edward Housman, More Poems, XXV, lines 5-9
      Then came I crying, and to-day,
      With heavier cause to plain,
      Depart I into death away,
      Not to be born again.

Etymology 3

From Old French plain, from Latin plānum (level ground, a plain), neuter substantive from plānus (level, even, flat).


Wikipedia has an article on:


a plain



plain (plural plains)

  1. An expanse of land with relatively low relief.
    • 1961: J. A. Philip. Mimesis in the Sophistês of Plato. In: Proceedings and Transactions of the American Philological Association 92. p. 467.
      For Plato the life of the philosopher is a life of struggle towards the goal of knowledge, towards “searching the heavens and measuring the plains, in all places seeking the nature of everything as a whole”
Derived terms
See also




From Latin planus.





  1. (obsolete) plane




From Latin plēnus.



  1. full

Simple English

]] In geography, a plain is a large area of land with no hills or mountains. Plains mostly are more suitable for farming than plateaus or mountains. List of famous plains:

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