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Vale vs. Valley: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 5, 2023
A vale is generally a poetic term referring to a broad valley, while a valley is a more common term for a low area between hills or mountains, typically with a river.

Key Differences

A vale, often found in literary contexts, typically refers to a broad, open valley and it is used to describe both the valley and the scenery it may encompass, while a valley is a geographical term, scientifically defined as a low area between hills or mountains, usually with a river running through it. Both terms highlight the geographical concavity of the landscape, but they differ in their usage and connotations, with vale being more picturesque and lyrical.
Valleys can be extensive geographical formations, characterized by their precise geological structure, inclusive of hills, mountains, and often a river or stream, which significantly contribute to its ecological diversity. Conversely, a vale, despite its poetic resonance, might not hold stringent geological definitions and can be more flexible, reflecting more on the visual and aesthetic aspects of the landscape.
A valley is often studied in the realm of physical geography for its distinct ecological, hydrological, and geological characteristics, making it a subject of scientific analysis and research, while a vale, due to its literary connotation, may symbolize varied themes such as peace, tranquility, or melancholy in poetry and prose, rendering it a more expressive term.
Valleys, known for their varying sizes and shapes, are integral components of the Earth's topography, contributing to the natural environment and human civilization by fostering diverse ecosystems and cultures. In contrast, the concept of a vale might not encompass the comprehensive ecological and cultural dimensions of a valley, focusing predominantly on its aesthetic and emotional appeal.

Comparison Chart


Primarily literary or poetic
Commonly used in both scientific and daily language


More picturesque and lyrical
Neutral, mainly geographical


Flexible, often broad and open
Precise, based on geological structures

Study Field

More likely to be found in literature
Studied in geography, ecology, and geology


Can symbolize peace, tranquility, or melancholy
Rarely used to convey themes in literature

Vale and Valley Definitions


A hollow or depressed area.
The vale echoed with the songs of myriad birds.


A region drained by a river and its tributaries.
The valley has rich, fertile soil ideal for agriculture.


A metaphorical expression indicating a state or period, often used symbolically.
The protagonist wandered through the vale of his own thoughts.


A low area between hills or mountains, often with a river.
The valley was abundant with diverse flora and fauna.


A broad, open valley, often used in poetry.
The poet described the tranquil beauty of the secluded vale.


A place or state of low or inferior condition or estimation.
After the loss, the team's morale was in the valley.


A stretch of low, open land.
The sheep grazed peacefully in the sunlit vale.


A distinct elongated depression between uplands, hills, or mountains.
The settlers built their homes in the sheltered valley.


A literary term for a valley, emphasizing its aesthetic appeal.
The painter was drawn to the colorful flowers of the vale.


An elongated lowland between ranges of mountains, hills, or other uplands, often having a river or stream running along the bottom.


A valley, often coursed by a stream; a dale.


An extensive area of land drained or irrigated by a river system.


A valley.


A depression or hollow resembling or suggesting a valley, as the point at which the two slopes of a roof meet.


Vale, Sarah Smith


An elongated depression cast between hills or mountains, often garnished with a river flowing through it.


A tract of low ground, or of land between hills; a valley.
Beyond this vale of tears there is a life above.
In those fair vales, by nature formed to please.


An area which drains itself into a river.


See 2d Vail, 3.


Any structure resembling one, e.g. the interior angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes.


A long depression in the surface of the land that usually contains a river


To form the shape of a valley.


The space inclosed between ranges of hills or mountains; the strip of land at the bottom of the depressions intersecting a country, including usually the bed of a stream, with frequently broad alluvial plains on one or both sides of the stream. Also used figuratively.
The valley of the shadow of death.
Sweet interchangeOf hill and valley, rivers, woods, and plains.


The place of meeting of two slopes of a roof, which have their plates running in different directions, and form on the plan a reëntrant angle.


A long depression in the surface of the land that usually contains a river


A depression or hollow resembling a valley.
The ball rolled down into the valley between the hills.


Is the definition of a valley more precise than a vale?

Yes, valley has a more precise, scientific definition, while vale is more flexible and picturesque.

Is vale used in everyday language?

Vale is less common in everyday language, typically reserved for poetic or literary contexts.

Can valleys be found all over the world?

Yes, valleys are common geographical features found on every continent.

Are vale and valley synonymous?

While similar, vale is a more literary and poetic term, whereas valley is a common, scientific term.

Is a vale necessarily broad and open?

Typically, in literature, a vale is described as being broad and open, emphasizing its scenic beauty.

Is the term vale often associated with tranquility and peace in literature?

Yes, vales are often depicted as tranquil and peaceful places in literary works.

Are valleys always located between hills or mountains?

Typically, yes; valleys are low areas situated between higher landforms like hills or mountains.

Can the word valley be used metaphorically like vale?

Yes, valley can also be used metaphorically to describe low points or inferior conditions.

Are there different types of valleys?

Yes, valleys can be categorized into different types like rift valleys, river valleys, and glacial valleys based on their formation.

Can a valley be described as a vale?

Yes, especially in poetic or literary contexts, a valley might be described as a vale.

Can the term vale be used metaphorically?

Yes, vale can be used metaphorically to describe states or periods in literature.

Do valleys have ecological significance?

Absolutely, valleys are ecologically significant due to their diverse ecosystems and geographical features.

Does the word vale appear in modern writing?

While less common, the term vale does appear in modern poetic or highly descriptive writing.

Can the terms vale and valley be used interchangeably in poetry?

To some extent, yes; both terms can be used to describe low areas between hills or mountains in a poetic context.

Are vales always depicted as picturesque in literature?

Often, but not always; the depiction can vary depending on the context and the writer's intention.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited 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.

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