ravine

Ravine is French for mountain torrent, and comes from the Old French rapine, or “violent rush.” Larger than a gully or a cleft but smaller than a canyon or gorge, a ravine is a small, steep-sided valley or depression, usually carved by running water. The word is most often associated with the narrow excavated valley of a mountain stream. A rarer usage denotes a stream with a slight fall between rapids. In A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, Isabella Bird writes: “After descending about two thousand feet to avoid the ice, we got into a deep ravine with inaccessible sides, partly filled with ice and snow and partly with large and small fragments of rock, which were constantly giving way, rendering the footing very insecure.”

Kim Barnes