Is there any standard internationally recognizable definition of the term "mountain"?

If international texts describe some terrain as mountains, do they use some international definition of the term, or do they use the local definitions?

For example, in Poland geographers usually agree that terrain is called mountains when its peaks are at least 600 meters above sea level. This makes, for example, the Świętokrzyskie Mountains 'mountains', although only a single peak is above 600m. But there are other definitions that are bases on the geological structure of the terrain, not on the height.

Germans, from what I know, use a definition based on 'Reliefenergie', so the relative height difference for every square kilometer, independent of the absolute height.

What criteria are usually used to call a terrain 'mountains' in international community? For example, what would we use on this site?

  • $\begingroup$ If there was an international definition of mountains, then Australia probably wouldn't have any ;) I think most texts give enough context to make it clear enough what's being talked about. Can you give an example of where a particular definition or lack of definition is actually going to cause problems? $\endgroup$
    – naught101
    Apr 16, 2014 at 8:20

1 Answer 1


There does not appear to be an agreed international definition of a mountain.

In the UK there is a colloquial definition that a mountain must be "a thousand feet high". This definition is sufficiently firmly established in a "folklore" sense that the 1995 film "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain" centred around it for its plot, and this plot is allegedly based on an older story in the region.

According to the UK's Ordnance Survey,

There is no precise international definition of a mountain... However, it is generally agreed that the minimum height is 610 metres (2 000 feet). (Source)

This definition does not make clear whether a 2000' rise from the surroundings is required, or whether a peak must simply be 2000' above sea level.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 2000 feet asl. is very near to Polish 600m asl. definition. $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2014 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ The Oxford Dictionary of Earth Sciences doesn't even try to give a definition of "mountain"; it ignores the issue altogether. $\endgroup$
    – kaberett
    Apr 16, 2014 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ How come that science is unified everywhere in the world, and there's no an agreement about geographical science term "mountain"? $\endgroup$
    – Quidam
    Nov 17, 2019 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's from the surrondings,not above the sea level, it would make no sense is some area, everything would be "mount" or "mountain". $\endgroup$
    – Quidam
    Nov 17, 2019 at 18:01

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