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The hill above the river dominated the landscape, which was predominantly flat and barren.

I am wondering if above means "next to and at a higher position relative to". Above can mean a lot of things, but when talking about geographical landmarks and features, does above pretty much always mean "next to and at a higher position relative to"?

  • I actually wrote that, because I couldn't find an example. – yocu Feb 28 at 16:50
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It's possible that the river flows underneath or through the hill. In which case, the hill is literally only above the river and not next to it (in a horizontal sense) at all.

The river could even be subterranean—meaning it's some distance away from the hill, even vertically.

But while those are possible interpretations of the sentence, and not always wrong, it's unlikely either is the intended meaning. Far more often than not, you'd be correct in assuming that the river is beside and close to the hill.

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Yes, I think 'above' does imply proximity. You cannot say "The hill was above the river, and a hundred miles away from it".

"Next to and at a higher position relative to" seems like a perfect definition of what it means to me.

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