You are standing at the foot of a cliff. You look up at the steep, sharp wall of rock above you and realize you are seeing an escarpment. At this moment, you can truly appreciate the power of natural erosion.
The history of the word escarpment can be found in the Italian scarpa and the French verb escarper, meaning "to make into a steep slope." This became the noun referring to a natural cliff, usually found where the land forms shift from highlands to a low plateau, with the sharp slope of an escarpment dividing the two landscapes. The word was also applied to a non-natural protective barrier usually built up in front of castles or forts.