Land is any part of the earth’s surface that is not covered by a body of water. Also called dry land, it is the part of the Earth covered by islands and continents. The definition of land comprises the surface of the earth including what extends downward to the centre of the planet and upward endlessly, including any natural objects which are attached permanently.

Throughout history, humans have populated the earth’s surface and have conducted majority of their activities on land, including agricultural activities, social activities, building, and sourcing natural resources such as wood, metal, and oil. Land has also supported and continues to support many animals and plants. The life forms that are found on land are called terrestrial animals or plants, with some having evolved from earlier species which originally thrived underwater.

The separation between land and water is important to humans and would vary depending on the local jurisdiction, among other factors. Coastal zones are areas where massive bodies of water meet land. There are a number of natural boundaries and artificial boundaries which clearly demarcate land and water. These may be in form of solid rock landforms which can be demarcated with ease or marshy boundaries which are more difficult demarcate.

Land in real estate

In real estate, land refers to property excluding any fixtures such as equipment or buildings that are not a natural part of the land. A person’s land may include forests, fields, minerals, or bodies of water such as ponds. The title holder of a piece of land may have the right to do what he wills with the natural resources in or on the land he or she owns. Land is one of the oldest and most reliable forms of collateral and lenders are especially enticed by it because it cannot be stolen, moved, destroyed or wasted. A person’s land would also include the space and air above the land as well as below it.

Land in Economics

In economics, land is a factor of some form of production, much like capital and labour which are also factors of production. While land cannot literally be consumed during the production process, it would be impossible to produce without it, meaning it is a resource without a cost of production. When land in sold, there will be capital gain or loss as the case may be and while use of land can be switched from less profitable to more profitable, it is impossible to increase the supply of land.


The term “land” is derived from Old English where lond or land referred to the soil, ground, a territory delineated by political boundaries, a defined part of the earth’s surface, or a region which is home to a person or a group. In Proto-Germanic use, it was “landa”, in Proto-Indo-European use, it was “lend”, and in West Frisian use, it was “lan”.

The term “landmass” refers to a continuous expanse of land which is enclosed by ocean. It is often written as a single word to differentiate it from “land mass” which is a measure of the area covered by a portion of land. Islands, supercontinents, and continents are examples of landmasses, with the four principal continuous landmasses of the planet being the Americas, Antarctica, Afro-Eurasia, and Australia.

The term “arable land” is used to describe land which can be cultivated for the purpose of growing crops. The region or country of a group of people may be referred to as their homeland, fatherland, or motherland. A number of countries and places incorporate “land” into their names, for example, Iceland and Ireland.

Geological history of land

The formation of the earth is due to accumulation of dust and gas from the solar nebula left over from the sun’s formation. This same body of matter is responsible for creating the solar system as we know it, with Earth being formed about 4.54 billion years ago. Originally, the planet was molten as a result of the intense activity of volcanoes and the impact from the earth repeatedly colliding with other bodies.

Over time, the earth’s surface cooled and water started to accumulate in the atmosphere, causing a solid crust to be formed. Over a long period lasting hundreds of millions of years, the surface of the planet continued to reshape itself forming continents which would then break apart. The planet’s land continues to be shaped by oceans and the atmosphere when there is erosion and solids are deposited on the surface.

The evolution of land ownership

Many ancient tribes saw themselves as connected to the territories to which they belonged not in a sense of owning the land but land itself owning the people, like with the ancient aborigines of Australia. The land was often regarded as some sort of sacred being or parent who the people depended on and were loyal to.

Land was often communally owned by the entire tribe or group where members of the group had access to use the land while outsiders were not permitted to do same. Private ownership was not common and where it existed, it had to be vetted by the group with such rights being withdrawn if the land was no longer put to use. It was either impossible or not permitted to sell land, and inheritance was not applicable since a child wouldn’t have to wait for another person to die before being able to use the land.

Early agricultural communities felt an even deeper connection with the land and adopted the communal ownership of land that is still seen today in peasant communities across the world. Many early civilisations had the notion that all land belonged to the gods and easily passed this onto godlike kings where they emerged. The right to use and control the distribution of land was granted to the ruling elite and over time, land became a symbol of wealth, a source of power, and a tool for a number of other purposes, much like what is obtainable today.

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Published on 9th June 2017

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