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[pla-toh or, esp. British, plat-oh] /plæˈtoʊ or, esp. British, ˈplæt oʊ/
noun, plural plateaus, plateaux
[pla-tohz or, esp. British, plat-ohz] /plæˈtoʊz or, esp. British, ˈplæt oʊz/ (Show IPA)
a land area having a relatively level surface considerably raised above adjoining land on at least one side, and often cut by deep canyons.
a period or state of little or no growth or decline:
to reach a plateau in one's career.
Psychology. a period of little or no apparent progress in an individual's learning, marked by an inability to increase speed, reduce number of errors, etc., and indicated by a horizontal stretch in a learning curve or graph.
a flat stand, as for a centerpiece, sometimes extending the full length of a table.
verb (used without object), plateaued, plateauing.
to reach a state or level of little or no growth or decline, especially to stop increasing or progressing; remain at a stable level of achievement; level off:
After a period of uninterrupted growth, sales began to plateau.
verb (used with object), plateaued, plateauing.
to cause to remain at a stable level, especially to prevent from rising or progressing:
Rising inflation plateaued sales income.
Origin of plateau
1785-95; < French; Old French platel flat object, diminutive of plat plate1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for plateau
  • North on a high plateau the warmer climate does us good.
  • Neighborhood boosters had long complained that the high plateau was inaccessible from surrounding areas.
  • The desert plateau on which they stand was once isolated.
  • And a plateau in the obesity rate would make some kind of reform a bit less expensive.
  • You reach a plateau and then you realize there's another steep curve coming.
  • Here again there is a rapid decline and subsequent plateau.
  • The white road below us led around and behind the opposite plateau.
  • Digital sales, on a steady growth streak since 2004, have hit a plateau.
  • As lottery revenues plateau and budget pictures worsen, students may see some state merit scholarships become less generous.
  • Instead, they're the broken and weathered remnants of a peninsular plateau.
British Dictionary definitions for plateau


noun (pl) -eaus, -eaux (-əʊz)
a wide mainly level area of elevated land
a relatively long period of stability; levelling off: the rising prices reached a plateau
verb (intransitive)
to remain at a stable level for a relatively long period
Word Origin
C18: from French, from Old French platel something flat, from plat flat; see plate


a state of central Nigeria, formed in 1976 from part of Benue-Plateau State: tin mining. Capital: Jos. Pop: 3 178 712 (2006). Area: 30 913 sq km (11 936 sq miles)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for plateau

1796, "elevated tract of relatively level land," from French plateau "table-land," from Old French platel (12c.) "flat piece of metal, wood, etc.," diminutive of plat "flat surface or thing," noun use of adjective plat "flat, stretched out" (12c.), perhaps from Vulgar Latin *plattus, from Greek platys "flat, wide, broad" (see plaice). Meaning "stage at which no progress is apparent" is attested from 1897, originally in psychology of learning. In reference to sexual stimulation from 1960.


1952, from plateau (n.). Related: Plateaued; plateauing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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plateau in Science
An elevated, comparatively level expanse of land. Plateaus make up about 45 percent of the Earth's land surface.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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