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A butte ( ) is a conspicuous isolated hill with steep, often vertical sides and a small, relatively flat top; it is smaller than mesas, plateaus, and table. In some regions the word is used for any hill. The word "butte" comes from a French word meaning "small hill"; its use is prevalent in the western United States, including the southwest, where "mesa" is also used.

In differentiating mesas and buttes, geographers use the rule that a mesa has a top wider than its height, while a butte's top is narrower.

Two noted buttes are Chimney Rockmarker and Crested Butte in Colorado.


Buttes are formed by erosion when hard caprock, covers a layer of softer rock that is eventually worn away. The hard rock thus avoids erosion. On a much smaller scale, the same process forms hoodoo.

Image:BlackButteOR_Russell_ric00804.jpg|Black Buttemarker, near Sisters, OregonmarkerImage:Butte pdphoto roadtrip 24 bg 021604.jpg|Butte near Sedona, ArizonamarkerImage:Signal Mountain TX 1900.jpg|Signal Butte near Big Spring, Texasmarker


  1. Hill, R.T. 1890. A brief description of the Cretaceous rocks of Texas and their economic value. In: Dumble, E.T. (ed.), First Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Texas, 1889. Austin: State Printing Office, pp. 105-141.

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