Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Prairie and Plain

Prairie vs Plain

Prairies and plains are said to be interchangeable. In the freest sense, they are. As a matter of fact, some people, coming from different walks of life, regard the two terms as one and the same. It also depends as to where you are located. For example, some people in a particular country or region don’t mind if there are differences between the two or not because they actually use them similarly. However, it must be clear that in the strictest and most technical sense a plain and a prairie are two different descriptions of land.

First, a plain is a more generic term which refers to an expanse of flat land that is treeless. There’s hardly any depression or elevation in the ground on a plain. Because of the broad definition of plains, the area can be arid to semi-arid, humid, and grassy. Some of the most well-known plains are the Salisbury Plain (south of U.K.) and the Babylon Plains (Iraq).

A prairie is just one of kind of plain like the steppes. It is therefore safe to say that prairies are plains while plains are not always prairies. Also, a prairie is a more specific plain that is mostly grassland in nature. The grasses thriving in lush prairies are perennial in nature. They may also contain a few trees and some flowering plants. A prairie can also be an open plain area with particular weather and unique biome characteristics.

Because of its very specific or narrowed definition, the term “prairie” is mostly linked to the North American Great Plains and the Canadian prairie areas like those located in Alberta, Saskatchewan ,and Manitoba. There are also several types of prairies according to grass height. There’s the tallgrass prairie, the midgrass or mixed prairie, and the shortgrass prairie.

Etymologically, the word “prairie” is a French root “la prairie” and was originally used to describe the fertile meadows in the southern area of France. It was only in the 1700s that the term was absorbed into the American dictionary. Nevertheless, the English also have their own term that was used to describe similar treeless, open areas of Britain, “plains.” This word was later embraced by the majority of the people worldwide. “Plains” can also serve to describe the flat areas of other unearthly surfaces like that on the moon and other planets. It is also used to describe flat sea floors.


1.A prairie is just one type of plain. It is a more specific type of land area.
2.A plain is a more general term that describes any open flat area that’s treeless.
3.“Prairie” is a term that is used to describe some of the great plains of North America and Canada.
4.Prairies have several subtypes: tall, mid and shortgrass prairies.

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1 Comment

  1. Nice discussion! I had never heard that a plain needed to be treeless though. In the eastern US, the coastal plain is mostly treed. I had always thought of a plain as being a very large area of flat land, regardless of vegetation.

    Steppe – hmmm. Now I know it has been a very long time since geography class!

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