Geography Glossary: What is a Butte?

If you’ve ever wondered, “What is a butte?”, you are not alone. It is one of those words we kind of ignore. Or we gloss over it, pretend we know what it is, and move on.

Oh, if only you had had awesome and amazing geography teachers in your past. Then you would have made Geography Glossaries and known these things.

But since you didn’t (or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post), you’ve come to the right place for the answer to the question.

What is a butte, anyways? I’m glad you asked.

And if you are making a Geography Glossary, here’s everything you need for that, too.

Today’s Word: Butte

What is a butte?

Monument Valley Buttes

When you know that the word butte comes from the French word meaning small hill, you have an instant clue to its meaning. A butte is an exposed rock formation that appears to rise out of the ground like a small hill. It typically has very steep sides rising up to meet a flat top, although that can vary. Sometimes the sides aren’t a vertical drop, and sometimes the top isn’t a totally flat table. But more or less, those are its typical features.

Mesas and plateaus are similar, with steep sides and flat tops, but they are bigger than buttes. Think of a butte as a mini-mesa, and you’re on target.

Where in the world…?

Back in the day, old TV westerns tried to paint a dramatic picture of the authentic Wild West, and a butte or two often found a place in the setting. This is because buttes in the American West are often a dramatic part of the extraordinary desert-like scenery in that part of the world.

Out of all the spectacular buttes in the American West, Monument Valley in Utah and Arizona, and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming have/are some of the world’s most admired buttes.

Butte | Devil's Tower, Wyoming

How to Draw It

The Devil’s Tower butte is a good choice for your drawing. Lightly sketch a horizontal line a little lower than the middle of your page for the ground and then sketch a fat rectangle shape, sitting on its short end, on top of that line.

Using this rectangle sketch as your guide, make darker, permanent lines on each side that slightly slope at the bottom, and then round the top just a bit. Now fill in the middle of the butte with lots of vertical lines.

To draw each pine tree on the ground around the butte, sketch a light vertical trunk, and then zigzag horizontal lines across each trunk, going from longer zigzags at the bottom, to very small ones at the top of each tree. Make as many pine trees as you like, and you are done!

What is a Butte?

But back to making a glossary. These can be fun for kids, and THEY can answer the next adult who asks, “What is a butte?”

You will need some Geography Glossary printables for kids. You can download some printable pages here and assemble a (blank) Glossary in no time.

Pick a word a week, or whatever fits your schedule. Look up your term, have kids write a definition in their own words, and then either let them draw a picture or glue in a photo from the internet or a magazine.

In no time, kids will have a Glossary that they can be proud of! And, of course, you can always start with the word “butte.”

You’re welcome. đŸ™‚

About the Author

Carol Henderson is the author of the Let's Go Geography curriculum. She previously homeschooled all 5 of her now-grown kids, and currently teaches several history and geography classes at a large homeschool co-op. After creating and then using her own geography curriculum for several years, she has published it here to share with you!

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