A meadow is a field vegetated primarily by grass and other non-woody plants (grassland).  Meadows have ecological importance because their open, sunny areas attract a multitude of wildlife, and provide areas for nesting, food shelter, and courtship displays. In agriculture a meadow is grassland which is not grazed by domestic livestock but rather allowed to grow unchecked in order to make hay. It may be naturally occurring or artificially created from cleared woodland.
Especially in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the term meadow is commonly used in its original sense to mean a hay meadow , signifying grassland mown annually in the summer for making hay. Agricultural meadows are typically lowland or upland fields upon which hay or pasture grasses grow from self-sown or hand-sown seed.  Traditional hay meadows were once common in rural Britain, but are now in decline. Ecologist Professor John Rodwell states that over the past century, England and Wales have lost about 97% of the hay meadows that England and Wales once had. 
A similar concept to the hay meadow is the pasture, which differs from the meadow in that it is not mowed and is instead grazed through the summer.  Pastures may include grass pasture, but also includes non-grassland habitats such as heathland, moorland and wood pasture. The term, grassland, is used to describe both hay meadows and grass pastures.
A transitional meadow occurs when a field, pasture, farmland, or other cleared land is no longer grazed by livestock and starts to display luxuriant growth extending to the flowering and self-seeding of its grass and wild flower species.  The condition is however only temporary because the grasses eventually become shaded out when scrub and woody plants become well-established, being the forerunners of the return to a fully wooded state.  A transitional state can be artificially-maintained through a double-field system in which cultivated soil and meadows are alternated for a period of 10 to 12 years each. 
In North America prior to European colonization, Algonquian, Iroquois and other Native American people regularly cleared areas of forest to create transitional meadows where deer could find nutrition and be hunted. Many places named "Deerfield" are located at sites where Native Americans once practised this form of land management.
A perpetual meadow, also called a natural meadow, is one in which environmental factors, such as climatic and soil conditions, are favorable to perennial grasses and restrict the growth of woody plants indefinitely.  Types of perpetual meadows include:
- Alpine meadows occur at high elevations above the tree line and are maintained by harsh climatic conditions
- Coastal meadows are maintained by salt sprays
- Desert meadows are restricted by low precipitation
- Prairies are maintained by periods of severe drought and are subject to wildfires
- Wet meadows are semi-wetland areas saturated with water throughout much of the year
- Coastal plain
- Flooded grasslands and savannas
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources, "Maryland's Wild Acres." Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- Rebecca Morelle, "Conservationists warn of hay meadow decline," BBC News Science & Environment, June 28, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10381309#story_continues_1, Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- The New International Encyclopedia, "Meadow," 1905. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_New_International_Encyclop%C3%A6dia/Meadow, Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- Helena Ruzickova and Miroslav Bural, "Grasslands of the East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve in Slovakia," In: Office of Central Europe and Eurasia National Research Council, Biodiversity Conservation in Transboundary Protected Areas, National Academies Press, Sept 27, 1996, p. 233-236.
- Robert Griffiths et al, "Conifer Invasion of Forest Meadows Transforms Soil Characteristics in the Pacific Northwest," Forest Ecology and Management 208, 2005, p. 347-358. http://andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu/pubs/pdf/pub3855.pdf, Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- T. A. Rabotinov, "Meadow," The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (3rd ed), 1979. http://slovari.yandex.ru/ (in Russian), Retrieved June 18, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Meadows|
- UK Wild Meadows Website
- Irish Wild Meadows Website
- Flora locale - information on creating wildflower meadows
- Meadow Planting
- A Year in a Meadow (Ottawa Canada)
- Grow a Back Yard Meadow (Ottawa Canada)
- Adrian Higgins, "Today, 32,000 Seedlings; Tomorrow, a Meadow," Washington Post, May 13, 2004. Link retrieved June 18, 2013.