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Hill vs. Plateau: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 8, 2024
A hill is a natural elevation of the earth's surface, smaller than a mountain, while a plateau is an extensive flat area at a high elevation.

Key Differences

Hills are characterized by their rounded, natural elevation of the earth's surface, generally less steep and lower in elevation than mountains. Plateaus, also known as tablelands, are extensive flat areas elevated significantly above the surrounding area, often with steep sides.
The formation of hills often results from various geological processes like erosion, earthquakes, and volcanic activity, leading to their varied shapes and sizes. Plateaus are typically formed by tectonic plate movements, lava outpouring, or erosion that leaves a flat area elevated.
In terms of ecosystem and biodiversity, hills can support diverse flora and fauna due to their varying slopes and altitudes. Plateaus often have a different ecosystem, influenced by their high elevation and flat terrain, which can impact climate and vegetation.
When it comes to human settlement and use, hills are often easier to inhabit and cultivate due to their gentle slopes and lower elevation. Plateaus present more challenges for settlement due to their high elevation, but they can be important for activities like mining.
In popular culture and literature, hills are often symbolized as gentle, rolling landscapes that are accessible and inviting. Plateaus are sometimes depicted as remote, isolated, and challenging due to their height and flat, expansive terrain.

Comparison Chart

Shape and Structure

Rounded, natural elevation
Extensive, flat, and elevated area

Formation Process

Result of erosion, volcanic activity
Formed by tectonic activities, lava flow

Elevation and Steepness

Generally lower and less steep
Higher elevation with possible steep sides

Ecosystem and Biodiversity

Supports diverse flora and fauna
Unique ecosystems due to elevation and flatness

Human Settlement

Easier for habitation and cultivation
Challenging due to high elevation

Hill and Plateau Definitions


A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain.
The ancient castle was built on top of a steep hill.


Plateaus are high plains or tablelands often surrounded by steep slopes.
The Tibetan Plateau is one of the highest and largest plateaus in the world.


A hill is a naturally raised area of land, smaller than a mountain.
The small village nestled at the base of the green hill.


A plateau is a broad, flat area on high ground.
Herds of wild animals roamed the vast African plateau.


A hill is a mound or small mountain.
The children enjoyed sledding down the snowy hill in winter.


A plateau is a flat, elevated landform that rises sharply above surrounding areas.
The Colorado Plateau is known for its stunning landscapes.


Hills are gentle elevations on the earth's surface.
We hiked up the hill to watch the sunset.


A plateau is an extensive area of flat highland.
The plateau offered breathtaking views of the valley below.


Hills are characterized by their distinct elevation and rolling landscapes.
The rolling hills were covered in a blanket of wildflowers.


Plateaus are characterized by their flat tops and significant elevation.
The volcanic plateau was formed by millions of years of lava flow.


A well-defined natural elevation smaller than a mountain.


An elevated, comparatively level expanse of land; a tableland.


A small heap, pile, or mound.


A relatively stable level, period, or state
Mortgage rates declined, then reached a plateau.


How are plateaus formed?

Mostly by tectonic activities, lava flow, and erosion.

How are hills formed?

Through erosion, volcanic activity, and other geological processes.

Are plateaus higher than hills?

Yes, plateaus are typically at a higher elevation.

Are plateaus good for agriculture?

It depends on the soil and climate; some plateaus support farming.

What is a hill?

A naturally raised area of land, smaller than a mountain.

What is a plateau?

A flat, elevated landform, often with steep sides.

What's the usual height of a hill?

It varies, but generally less than that of mountains.

Can hills support settlements?

Yes, their gentle slopes make them suitable for habitation.

What about plateau vegetation?

Often sparse due to higher elevation and harsher conditions.

Do plateaus always have steep edges?

Often, but not always; some have gradual slopes.

Do hills have flat tops?

No, they are usually rounded.

Why are plateaus flat?

They're formed by uplifted flat land or lava solidification.

Do hills have steep sides?

They can, but their slopes are generally more gentle than mountains.

What kind of vegetation is found on hills?

Varied, depending on climate and altitude.

Do rivers flow on plateaus?

Yes, some plateaus have rivers, often leading to waterfalls at edges.

Are hills found near mountains?

Often, as they can form on the outskirts of mountain ranges.

Are all hills the same size?

No, their size varies widely.

Is a plateau considered a mountain?

No, despite being high, its flat top distinguishes it from mountains.

Can rivers form on hills?

Yes, rivers can originate from hills.

What's the significance of plateaus in geography?

They're important for studying earth's geological and climatic history.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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