absolute location

references an exact point on Earth and commonly uses specific coordinates like latitude and longitude

acid rain

a form of acidic precipitation caused by the emission of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from the burning of fossil fuels

African Union

an interregional organization in Africa that seeks unity, integration, and sustainable development

agricultural density

the ratio of the number of farmers to the area of land


a group of militant Sunnis founded by Osama bin Laden


a series of high elevation plains found in western South America

altitudinal zonation

distinct agricultural and livestock zones resulting from changes in elevation


the ruling Dutch government’s policy of racial separation in South Africa


an underground layer of permeable rock that holds groundwater

Arab Spring

a wave of protests and revolutions in North Africa and Southwest Asia that began in Tunisia in 2010


a chain of islands

arithmetic density

the number of people in an area divided by the size of the area

Asian Tigers

refers to Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan which have experienced rapid industrialization and economic development led by export-driven economies, low taxes, and free trade, sometimes also called the Four Asian Tigers


when one cultural group adopts the language and customs of another group

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

an international organization that seeks to promote political security, economic growth, and social development among member countries in Southeast Asia, also known as ASEAN


a ring-shaped chain of coral islands surrounding a central lagoon


having a wide variety of species present in an area


a branch of geography that explores the spatial distribution of the world’s flora and fauna


a Marxist political party led by Vladimir Lenin that overthrew the interim government following the Russian Revolution and created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

boreal forest

a cold biome characterized by coniferous trees, also known as taiga

brain drain

refers to the emigration of highly skilled workers “draining" their home country of their knowledge and skills


religion that emerged from Hinduism and is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama

buffer states

a country situated between two more powerful states

caste system

a form of hereditary social hierarchy found in Hinduism

central business district

the central commercial and business area of a city, also known as the CBD

centrifugal forces

forces that threaten national unity by dividing a state

centripetal forces

forces that tend to unify people within a country

choke point

a narrow passage to another region, such as a canal, valley, or bridge


a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus

climate change

global changes in temperature and the patterns of weather over an extended period of time

Cold War

a time of political and military tension primarily between the United States and the Soviet Union following World War II and lasting until the early 1990s with the fall of the Soviet Union


the control of a territory by another group

command economy

an economic system where the production, prices of goods, and wages received by workers is set by the government


raw materials or agricultural goods that are easily bought and sold

communal conflict

violence between members of different communities


a social, political, and economic system that seeks communal ownership of the means of production

continental climate

areas near the center of a continent that experience more extremes in temperature due to their location away from bodies of water

coral bleaching

occurs when coral experience “stress" due to warm waters and expel the colorful, algae-like organisms that live within them


the process of shifting from a primarily manufacturing-based economy to service industries

demographic transition model

a model that demonstrates the changes in birth rates, death rates, and population growth over time as a country develops, also referred to as the DTM


the process of previously fertile land becoming desert


economic, social, and institutional advancements


refers to the spreading of an idea, object, or feature from one place to another


changes that occur in area, shape, distance, and/or direction when representing a spherical Earth on the flat surface of a map

domino theory

refers to the fear that the fall of one country to communism would lead to the fall of other surrounding countries to communism

dual economy

when plantations or commercial agriculture is practiced alongside traditional agricultural methods

Eastern Orthodox Church

a branch of Christianity that split from Roman Catholicism in 1054 CE and includes a number of different denominations such as the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches

economies of scale

the savings in cost per unit that results from increasing production

El Niño

the warming phase of a climate pattern found across the tropical Pacific Ocean region


a disease found within a population in relatively steady numbers


a French term meaning a commercial center of trade

environmental degradation

the deterioration of resources like air, land, and water


a disease outbreak


the identification of a group of people with a common language, ancestry, or cultural history

exclusive economic zone

a 200 mile zone extending out from a country’s coastline where it has exclusive control over any natural resources, also known as the EEZ

failed state

when a government deteriorates to the point where it is no longer functional

federal state

a political system characterized by regional governments or self-governing states

Fertile Crescent

an early area of human civilization in North Africa and Southwest Asia surrounding the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile rivers

floating population

members of a population who reside in an area for a period of time but do not live there permanently

foreign direct investment

the control of a business in one country by a company based in another country, also known as FDI

formal regions

a region that shares at least one common characteristic, sometimes also called homogeneous regions

forward capital

a capital that has been intentionally relocated, generally because of economic or strategic regions, and is often positioned on the edge of contested territory

fossil fuels

nonrenewable sources of energy formed by the remains of decayed plants or animals

functional region

a region united by a particular function, often economic, sometimes also called nodal regions


the systematic elimination of a group of people


where increased property values resulting from the arrival of middle and upper class residents displace lower-income families and small businesses

geographic information science

also referred to as geographic information systems, or GIS; a program that uses computers and satellite imagery to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial data


the increasing interconnectedness and integration of the countries of the world resulting from advances in communication and transportation technology

Great Barrier Reef

a massive underwater coral reef off the coast of northeastern Australia

Great Leap Forward

a campaign begun in 1958 by the Communist Party of China that sought to reshape China’s agrarian society into an industrial power

Green Revolution

changes in agricultural technology and productivity beginning in India in the 1960s

gross domestic product

the value of all the goods and services produced in a country in a given year

gross national income

the value of all the goods and services produced in a country in a given year and the income received from overseas

Group of Seven

a political forum of the world’s leading industrialized countries including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, also known as the G7

growth pole

a cluster within a region that has attracted economic development


a Spanish estate where a variety of crops are grown both for local and international markets


a pilgrimage to Mecca that is expected for all physically and financially able Muslims to complete at least once in their lifetime

high islands

islands that were formed from volcanoes and have relatively high relief


an ancient polytheistic religion that first developed in South Asia and is characterized by a belief in karma, dharma, and reincarnation

Horn of Africa

a protruding peninsula in East Africa that contains the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia


a philosophy emphasizing the value of human beings and the use of reason in solving problems

import-substitution industry

a strategy to replace foreign imports with domestic production of goods

Industrial Revolution

the changes in manufacturing that began in the United Kingdom in the late 18th and early 19th centuries

informal sector

refers to the part of the economy where goods and services are bought and sold without being taxed or monitored by the government

insurgent state

a territory beyond the control of government forces

invasive species

a species of plant, animal, or fungus that is not native to an area but spreads rapidly

Iron Curtain

an imaginary dividing line between the Soviet Union and its satellite states who aligned with the Warsaw Pact, a collective defense treaty, and Western European countries allied through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)


a monotheistic religion that emphasizes the belief in Muhammad as the last prophet


a religious ideology characterized by a strict, literal interpretation of the Qur’an, conservative moral values, and the desire to establish Islamic values across the entire world.


a narrow strip of land that connects the two large landmasses


a religion emerged in India in the first century BCE and emphasizes ahimsa, nonviolence toward all living beings


a militant form of Islam that seeks to combat threats to the Muslim community


an ancient monotheistic religion founded in the Middle East that holds the Torah as its holiest religious text

Khmer Rouge

a communist organization in Cambodia that opposed Westernization and believed in a return to an agrarian society

land alienation

when land is taken from one group and claimed by another


imaginary lines that run laterally, parallel to the equator, around the earth and measure distances north or south of the equator

liberation theology

a form of Christianity that is blended with political activism and places a strong emphasis on social justice, poverty, and human rights

lingua franca

a common language spoken between speakers of different languages


imaginary lines that circle the earth and converge at the poles, measuring distances east and west of the Prime Meridian

low islands

islands that were formed mostly from coral and have relatively low elevations


a manufacturing plant that takes components of products and assembles them for export

maritime climate

a climate zone that features cool summers and cool winters with few extremes in temperature or in rainfall


an analysis of social class and conflict based on the work of Karl Marx


a metropolitan area with over 10 million people


a region of overlapping metropolitan areas


a region of islands to the northeast of Australia that include Papua New Guinea and Fiji

melting pot

a metaphorical term referring to the mixing of cultural groups to create a more homogeneous national culture


a term referring to someone of mixed European and Ameridian descent


financial and investment services for individuals and small business who otherwise do not have access to traditional banking services


a region of very small islands north of Melanesia and east of Polynesia


a move from one place to another intended to be permanent


the belief in one god


an egg-laying mammal


a seasonal shift in winds that results in changes in precipitation


a sovereign political area that has a homogenous ethnic and cultural identity


the feeling of political unity within a territory


the practice of exerting economic rather than direct political control over territory

Neolithic Period

also known as the New Stone Age, a time of key developments in early human technology, such as farming, the domestication of plants and animals, and the use of pottery

North American Free Trade Agreement

an agreement established in 1994 with the goal of increasing economic cooperation between Canada, Mexico, and the United States, also referred to as NAFTA

offshore banking

financial services located outside a depositor’s country of residence and offer increased privacy and little or no taxation

orographic precipitation

rainfall that results from a physical barrier forcing air masses to climb where they then cool, condense, and form precipitation


a remote area of extensive grassland pastures in central Australia


contracting out a portion of a business to another party, which might be located in a different country

Pacific Rim

refers to the countries that border the Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ring of Fire

an area of high tectonic activity along the Pacific Ocean basin


the division of a territory into smaller units, as with the former British Empire in South Asia


soil that is consistently below the freezing point of water (0°C or 32°F)

physiologic density

the number of people per unit of arable land

Pidgin English

a simplified form of English used by speakers of different languages for trade, in addition to their native tongue


an agricultural system designed to produce one or two crops primarily for export

plate tectonics

a theory that describes the movement of rigid, tectonic plates above a bed of molten, flowing material


a large, triangular region of Pacific islands stretching from New Zealand to Easter Island to the Hawaiian and Midway Islands

population pyramid

a graphical representation of a population’s age groups and composition of males and females

primate city

a city that is the largest city in a country, is more than twice as large as the next largest city, and is representative of the national culture


a system of irrigation first developed in modern-day Iran consisting of an underground tunnel used to extract groundwater from below mountains and transport it downhill


the holiest book of Islam believed to contain the words of God as recited by Muhammad, also spelled Quran or Koran

rain shadow

a region with dry conditions on the leeward side of a highland area

rate of natural increase

the measure of a country’s population growth calculated by subtracting its death rate from its birth rate, also referred to as RNI


people who have been forced to leave their country

relative location

the location of a place relative to other places


a system of cultural assimilation in Russia where non-Russian groups give up their ethnic and linguistic identity and adopt the Russian culture and language


a transitional region in northern Africa connecting the dry Sahara Desert to the tropical regions of the south


the ratio between the distance between two locations on a map and the corresponding distance on Earth’s surface


the exclusion of religious ideologies from government or public activities

sex ratio

the ratio of males to females in a population

shatter belt

an area of political instability that is caught between the interests of competing states

shifting cultivation

a system of agriculture where one area of land is farmed for a period of time and then abandoned until its fertility naturally restores


a monotheistic religion founded on the teachings of Guru Nanak that combines elements of both Hinduism and Islam


an ethno-linguistic group located in Central and Eastern Europe that includes West Slavs (such as Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks), East Slavs (including Russians and Ukrainians), and South Slavs (namely Serbs, Croats, and others)

Small Island Developing States

small, coastal states with that face challenges related to sustainable development and have limited populations and natural resource bases, also known as SIDS

social stratification

a system of social categorization where people in a society have differing levels of social status

social welfare

a government policy where citizens pay a higher percentage of taxes to support universal healthcare, higher education, child care, and retirement programs

Special Economic Zones

a special region in China where more free-market oriented economics are allowed, also known as SEZ

squatter settlement

a housing area where residents do not own or pay rent and instead occupy otherwise unused land


an independent and sovereign political entity recognized by the international community


a biome characterized by treeless, grassland plains

structural adjustment programs

a set of required economic changes that accompany a loan made by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to country that is experiencing an economic crisis

subduction zone

an area where one tectonic plate is subducting, or moving below, another plate

subsistence farming

where farmers grows food primarily to feed themselves and their families

sustainable agriculture

a type of agriculture looks at farming’s effect on the larger ecosystem and seeks to minimize negatively impacts on the ecosystem in the long-term


a biome characterized by cold temperatures and coniferous forests

territorial waters

an area extending 12 miles offshore that is considered sovereign territory of a state


a government ruled by religious authorities

total fertility rate

the average number of children born to a woman during her childbearing years, also referred to as TFR

Trans-Siberian Railway

an east-west rail line completed in 1919 that stretches across Russia, connecting Moscow in the west with Vladivosktok in the east

transition zone

n area between two regions that is marked by a gradual spatial change


a group of families united by a common ancestry and language


a high sea wave resulting from the displacement of water


a biome characterized by very cold temperatures and limited tree growth

unitary state

a political system characterized by a powerful central government

urban decentralization

the spreading out of the population that resulted from suburbanization

urban sprawl

the expansion of human settlements away from central cities and into low-density, car-dependent communities


the increased proportion of people living in urban areas

value added goods

a raw material that has been changed in a way that enhances its value


a strict form of Sunni Islam that promotes ultraconservative Muslim values


the process of adopting Western, particularly European and American, culture and values

World Trade Organization

an intergovernmental organization that collectively regulates international trade, also known as the WTO


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World Regional Geography Copyright © 2019 by Caitlin Finlayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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