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A cordillera is an extensive chain of mountains or mountain ranges. The term derives from the Spanish cordilla, a diminutive of cuerda, or "cord". It is most commonly used in the field of physical geography.
The term is particularly applied to the various ranges of the Andes of South America, and less frequently to other mountain ranges in the "ridge," which rims the Pacific Ocean. In Colombia and Venezuela the cordilleras are named according to their position: Cordillera Occidental, Central, and Oriental. Various local names are in use in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
The structure of mountains of this type is complex, usually the result of folding and faulting accompanied by volcanic activity. In South America the ranges are surmounted by numerous volcanic peaks. Argentina's Mt. Aconcagua, at 22,834 feet (6,960 meters) high, is the highest point in the Western Hemisphere. A number of these volcanoes have been active in historic times. Aside from the volcanic peaks, the crests include many narrow ridges, some of which reach into the zone of permanent snow. Between the ranges there are numerous inhabited valleys, basins, and low plateaux with a wide range of elevations.
- Arctic Cordillera, the mountain ranges along the northeastern edge of the Arctic Archipelago and the northeasternmost part of the Ungava Peninsula in Labrador and Quebec, Canada
- American Cordillera, the mountain ranges forming the western backbone of North America and South America
- Annamese Cordillera (Annamite Range), Laos and eastern Vietnam
- Baetic Cordillera, Spain
- Central Cordillera (New Guinea Highlands)
- Cordillera Cantábrica and Cantabria (including the Picos de Europa)
- Cordillera Central, several mountain ranges share the name
- Cordillera Occidental, Andes, Colombia and Ecuador
- Cordillera Occidental, Peru
- Cordillera Oriental, several mountain ranges share the name
- Pacific Cordillera, an alternate name for the Western Cordillera in North America, usually used in Canada. Sometimes mis-used for the Pacific Coast Ranges.
- Mexican Cordillera, consisting of the Juarez Segment, the Huayacocotla Segment, the Victoria Segment, and the Nuevoleones Cordillera
- Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), encompassing the Cordillera Central mountains of the Philippines
- Cordillera de los Andes, South America
- Cordillera de la Costa (Chilean Coast Range)
- Cordillera de la Costa (Venezuelan Coastal Range)
- Cordillera de Mérida, Venezuela
- Gran Cordillera Region (Northern Philippines)
- East Australian Cordillera, more commonly known as the Great Dividing Range
- Southern Pacific Cordillera, Mindanao, Philippines
- Zagros Cordillera, Middle East, Southeast of Turkey, Northeast of Iraq, and Northwest to Southeast Iran
- Albors Cordillera, Northwest-Northeast Iran (also written as Elburz)
- The Encyclopedia Americana: a library of universal knowledge, page 687 (Encyclopedia Americana Corp., 1918): "It is used particularly in physical geography, although in geology also it is sometimes applied...."
- "Informe científico que estudia el Aconcagua, el Coloso de América mide 6960,8 metros" [Scientific Report on Aconcagua, the Colossus of America measures 6960,8m] (in Spanish). Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. 2012. Retrieved September 3, 2012.