terr-, terra-, -ter

(Latin: earth, dry land, land)

This unit presents many words that are used in references having to do with earth and land; that is, the loose, fragmented material that composes part of the surface of this planet that we live on.

Don't confuse this element with other words that are spelled in a similar way; such as, terrify, terrible.

terra cotta
1. A hard, semifired, waterproof ceramic clay used in pottery and building construction.
2. Ceramic wares made of this material.
terra cotta lamp
A historic type of lamp made from an unglazed, lightweight clay material that is typically red in color.

Believed to have been used first in ancient Greece in about 600 B.C.

terra firma (s) (noun) (no plural)
1. Solid ground, dry land; in contrast to water or air: Grace was very nervous on the flight from Canada to France and was very happy to be able to put her feet back on terra firma once again after arriving safely at the airport!
2. Etymology: from Modern Latin terra firma, "firm land"; from Latin terra "earth, land" + firma, "strong, steadfast".
Solid or firm earth.
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terra incognita (s); terrae incognitae (pl)
1. An unknown land; an unexplored region.
2. A new or unexplored field of knowledge.

An unexplored region. This phrase is often used in referring to matters about which one is uninformed, e.g. "I don't think I can do this because it is terra incognita to me."

terra nullius
In Australia, the idea and legal concept that when the first Europeans arrived in Australia, the land was owned by no one and therefore open to settlement. It has been judged not to be legally valid.
1. A raised level place for walking, with a vertical or sloping front or sides faced with masonry, turf, or the like; especially, a raised walk in a garden, or a level surface formed in front of a house on naturally sloping ground, or on the bank of a river.
2. A horizontal shelf or bench on the side of a hill, or sloping ground.
3. A row of houses on a level above the general surface, or on the face of a rising ground; loosely, a row of houses of uniform style, on a site slightly, if at all, raised above the level of the roadway.
4. An open, often paved area adjacent to a house serving as an outdoor living space; a patio.
5. A flat, narrow stretch of ground, often having a steep slope facing a river, lake, or sea.
6. About 1515, "gallery, portico, balcony", later "flat, raised place for walking" (1575), from Modern French terrace, from Old French terrasse "platform (built on or supported by a mound of earth)", from Vulgar Latin terracea, feminine of terraceus "earthen, earthy" from Latin terra "earth, land". As a natural formation in geology, traced back to 1674.
Earthen or of the earth.
1. A series of level, fairly narrow strips of ground constructed on a hillside that would otherwise be too steep for cultivation.
2. The act or process of creating a terrace or terraces.
Cultivation in the soil of the earth; agriculture.
terraform (verb), terraforms; terraformed; terraforming
1. To transform a landscape on another planet into one having the characteristics of landscapes on Earth.
2. To alter the environment of a celestial body in order to make it capable of supporting earth-life forms.
3. To change another planet's surface and atmosphere so that life as it exists on Earth is feasible.
Someone who advocates the terraformation of another planet; such as, Mars.
1. The process of modifying a planet, moon or other body to a more earth-like habitable atmosphere, temperature, and ecology.
2. Used very broadly as a synonym for planetary engineering in general. Since space exploration is in its infancy, a good deal of terraforming remains very speculative and serves to stimulate the imaginations of science-fiction writers.
Someone who believes in the practice of terraforming.
terrain (s) (noun), terrains (pl)
1. In geography, a tract of land having or considered in terms of certain natural features and characteristics; especially when crossing it or using it for military purposes.
2. Etymology: from Latin terranum, terrenum, "land, ground"; from terrenus, "of earth, earthly"; from terra, "earth, land"; literally, "dry land" (as opposed to the "sea"); from Greek teresesthai, "to become dry" or "to be dry"; Latin torrere "to dry up, to parch".
A kind of earthy fertilizer.

Cross references of word families related directly, or indirectly, to: "land, ground, fields, soil, dirt, mud, clay, earth (world)": agra-; agrest-; agri-; agro-; argill-; choro-; chthon-; epeiro-; geo-; glob-; lut-; myso-; pedo-; pel-; rhyp-; soil-; sord-.