AskDefine | Define canyon

Dictionary Definition

canyon n : a ravine formed by a river in an area with little rainfall [syn: canon]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings

cañon, plural cañons or cañones. (See ñ.)


From cañón


  1. A valley, especially a long, narrow, steep valley, cut in rock by a river.


a valley cut in rock by a river

Extensive Definition

For the song, see CANYON.MID. For the band, see Canyon (band).
A canyon (rarely cañon) or gorge is a deep valley between cliffs often carved from the landscape by a river. Most canyons were formed by a process of long-time erosion from a plateau level. The cliffs form because harder rock strata that are resistant to erosion and weathering remain exposed on the valley walls. Canyons are much more common in arid areas than in wetter areas because weathering has a greater effect in arid zones. Canyon walls are often formed of resistant sandstones or granite. Submarine canyons are those which form underwater, generally at the mouths of rivers. The word canyon is Spanish in origin (cañón). The word canyon is generally used in the United States, while the word gorge is more common in Europe and Oceania, though it is also used in some parts of the United States and Canada. The military derived word defile is occasionally used in England.
A famous example is the Grand Canyon in Arizona. In the southwestern United States, canyons are important archeologically because of the many cliff-dwellings built there, largely by the earlier inhabitants, Ancient Pueblo Peoples.
Sometimes large rivers run through canyons as the result of gradual geologic uplift. These are called entrenched rivers, because they are unable to easily alter their course. The Colorado River and the Snake River in the northwestern United States are two examples of tectonic uplift.
Canyons often form in areas of limestone rock. Limestone is to a certain extent soluble, so cave systems form in the rock. When these collapse a canyon is left, for example in the Mendip Hills in Somerset and Yorkshire Dales in Yorkshire, England.
The definition of "largest canyon" is rather imprecise, as a canyon can be "large" by its depth, length, or the total area of the canyon system. Also the inaccessibility of the major canyons in the Himalaya contributes to their not being regarded as candidates for the biggest canyon. The definition of "deepest canyon" is similarly imprecise, especially if one includes mountain canyons as well as canyons cut through relatively flat plateaus (which have a somewhat well-defined rim elevation).
The Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon, along the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, China, is regarded by some as the deepest canyon in the world, and is even slightly longer than Grand Canyon. Hence it is regarded by many as the world's largest canyon, followed by the Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal, Polung Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet, Cotahuasi Canyon (3,535 m deep and the deepest in the Americas), and the Tekezé gorge (2000m+ deep and deepest in Africa).
Slot canyons are very narrow canyons, often with smooth walls.

Other well-known canyons

Other lesser-known canyon systems include: The Blue Mountains west of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia contain many

Canyons on other planetary bodies

Venus has many craters and canyons on its surface. The troughs on the planet are part of a system of canyons that is more than 6 400 km long.


canyon in Bulgarian: Каньон
canyon in Czech: Kaňon
canyon in Danish: Kløft
canyon in German: Canyon
canyon in Estonian: Kanjon
canyon in Spanish: Cañón (geomorfología)
canyon in Esperanto: Kanjono
canyon in French: Canyon
canyon in Indonesian: Ngarai
canyon in Italian: Gola (geografia)
canyon in Hebrew: קניון (עמק)
canyon in Dutch: Kloof
canyon in Japanese: 峡谷
canyon in Norwegian: Canyon
canyon in Uighur: يېمەك
canyon in Polish: Przełom rzeki
canyon in Portuguese: Cânion
canyon in Romanian: Defileu
canyon in Russian: Каньон
canyon in Simple English: Canyon
canyon in Finnish: Kanjoni
canyon in Swedish: Kanjon
canyon in Turkish: Kanyon
canyon in Chinese: 峽谷

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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