Definition of plateau in US English:



  • 1An area of relatively level high ground.

    • ‘The plateau consists of extensive areas of barren rock, or hills with a thin cover of drought-resistant vegetation.’
    • ‘They compare closely with oceanic flood basalts that make up many oceanic ridges, plateaux, and sea mounts.’
    • ‘The topography includes vast desert expanses, high plateaus, rolling foothills and valleys, and immense mountain ranges.’
    • ‘Terrain types noted so far include rocky and sandy plains, mountains, craters, plateaus and canyons.’
    • ‘Lowlands, plateaux, foothills, and mountain slopes suitable for viticulture occupy only seven per cent of Tajikistan's area.’
    • ‘This soil region is in the foothills of the Appalachian plateau, and topography ranges from nearly level to extremely steep.’
    • ‘The upland plateau known as the sierra represents about one-fourth of Peru's land and holds a majority of the country's population.’
    • ‘The plateau complex rises toward the southeast, where it climaxes in the Drakensberg range, part of an escarpment that separates the plateau from the coastal areas.’
    • ‘We had mountains, valleys, plateaus, deserts, waterfalls, rivers, and streams.’
    • ‘Artists were also adorning rocks along rivers, on plateaux, on mountainsides, and so on.’
    • ‘The southern half of the Republic of Guatemala mainly consists of beautiful mountain highlands and plateaus, which are susceptible to devastating earthquakes.’
    • ‘Titan's dunes bend around hills and upland plateaus, revealing how Titan's wind interacts with the topography.’
    • ‘These are scattered tribes who live in remote plateaus and mountainous areas.’
    • ‘In what amounted to the ultimate consumer perk, we were driven to the top of the mountain plateau to begin our backcountry ski tour.’
    • ‘Mammals, apart from the savanna fox, live mostly in the forested areas of the plateau or down in the gorge.’
    • ‘These are important, not to find fish so much as underwater islands and plateaux in deeper areas just off shore.’
    • ‘It seemed like they were on different level plateaus from each other, and that connection that used to bridge and support them seemed strained.’
    • ‘The Khmer Loeu hill tribes live in remote highland areas in the plateaus and mountainous areas on the edges of Cambodia.’
    • ‘The Massif Central is a large mountainous plateau in the central area, which includes the ancient volcanoes of the Auvergne region.’
    • ‘As a result, the area of the plateau outside the existing reserves was given the less restrictive tenure of conservation area.’
    upland, tableland, elevated plain, mesa, highland, table
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    1. 1.1as modifier Denoting a group of North American peoples of the high plains of western Canada and the US, including the Nez Percé.
  • 2A state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.

    ‘the peace process had reached a plateau’
    • ‘I had to dress up the presentation of that move in such a way as to protect the show, so I gave all kinds of reasons for the move, trying to disguise the fact that I was having to move it because it had reached a plateau and wasn't moving off.’
    • ‘Musically, Brown reached a plateau in the early 1970s when his band, the JBs, patented a muscular, jazzy funk, over which the group's leader could exhort and exclaim.’
    • ‘In the last 10 years, however, we've hit a fairly level plateau.’
    • ‘At some point, I felt I had reached a plateau as an amateur photographer and needed to know more, so I took a photography class at the local community college.’
    • ‘I've reached a plateau where I'm waiting for the next struggle to rear its ugly head.’
    • ‘Analysts say growth in the number of subscribers has reached a plateau and looks set to slow down, and this has cooled the share price.’
    • ‘Not that it was any worse than countless other nights there, but maybe my brain has had its fill, maybe I've reached a plateau.’
    • ‘They should have reached a plateau at which Irish lamb should be in position to compete on the export market.’
    • ‘But he reached a plateau at age 23 and had to quit.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that, at the beginning of our period, literacy was on the increase, though it soon reached a plateau (where it more or less remained until Unification).’
    • ‘However, by 1981 the firm realised that investment trusts had reached a plateau.’
    • ‘Two years ago, however, my fitness level hit a plateau.’
    • ‘With many analysts believing that the Irish property market has reached a plateau, many people are starting to look at eastern Europe for property investment opportunities.’
    • ‘There is some feeling this year that the medium has reached a plateau, but that's not the case.’
    • ‘General awareness of e-business has now reached a plateau.’
    • ‘Women's wellbeing reached a plateau between the ages of 30 and 64, while that of men dipped during the same period, according to the survey.’
    • ‘By Wednesday, the national spasm of bulk-buying reached a plateau.’
    • ‘She had been on an upward curve, but had suddenly reached a plateau in her performances, and her confidence took a battering.’
    • ‘For the past 10 years before that, HIV and AIDS rates in Australia were going down, then they reached a plateau and now we've seen sharp rises.’
    • ‘Sure, dot-com advertising is down, the number of newbies hitting the Internet has reached a plateau, and personal computer sales have fallen.’
    level, stage
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  • Reach a state of little or no change after a time of activity or progress.

    ‘the industry's problems have plateaued out’
    • ‘His early success has plateaued and he will be looking to use tonight as a springboard into the pre-election period.’
    • ‘As your body begins to accommodate to the plan, providing new stimulation (in the form of supplements) every two weeks will help prevent you from plateauing and help you keep growing for a longer period of time.’
    • ‘I think they have plateaued - they are not making progress.’
    • ‘But now the market has plateaued, the need to sell off-plan becomes even more pressurised.’
    • ‘He said: ‘Over the last 20 years the divorce rates have plateaued.’’
    • ‘One friend suggested to me that Manukau and Waitakere City are still very buoyant markets for property prices, but Auckland City is plateauing in the more expensive markets.’
    • ‘There is recent evidence that in the UK the high prevalence figures for asthma have plateaued, but this is not true of other allergic conditions like nut and latex allergy.’
    • ‘I take some comfort from the fact we have had a very significant increase in the last five or six years in key stage two results but we are plateauing so we need to act to deal with it.’
    • ‘‘I'll also use this if I feel I might be plateauing,’ Frank says.’
    • ‘Far from declining, HIV infections plateaued at 40,000 a year during 2002 and 2003; this year, documented HIV diagnoses actually rose.’
    • ‘The average teacher salary has basically plateaued in the last 30 years, just above $40,000.’
    • ‘In the US the rapid rise in infections plateaued, then fell significantly and remains steady at the rate of 40,000 new infections a year.’
    • ‘‘I've known people who thought they were plateauing when they were just losing half a pound a week,’ Nonas says.’
    • ‘The report shows the strain on federal finances starting at around 2008, pushing out to a deficit in 2018 and plateauing out at 2042.’
    • ‘The population is relatively flat, because the birth rates have plateaued.’
    • ‘Technological progress with desktop computers and office software has plateaued in recent years, with little eye-opening innovation.’
    • ‘These percentages have remained static over the last three years, indicating that off-farm employment has plateaued.’
    • ‘If you are having success with a certain phase, feel free to maintain it until you begin to notice that you are plateauing.’
    • ‘‘They are still a long way from plateauing,’ says Hahn.’
    • ‘Ironically, however, its improved living standards and high domestic per capita income plateaued very rapidly into a high cost economy which penalized individual Japanese, first as consumers, then as savers.’


Late 18th century: from French, from Old French platel, diminutive of plat ‘level’.