Middle English avantage, from Anglo-French, from avant before, from Late Latin abante
- 1: superiority of position or condition <higher ground gave the enemy the advantage>
- 2: a factor or circumstance of benefit to its possessor <lacked the advantages of an education>
- 3a : benefit, gain; especially : benefit resulting from some course of action <a mistake which turned out to our advantage>
- b obsolete : interest
- 4: the first point won in tennis after deuce
— to advantage
An Advantage of terrain occurs when military personnel gain an advantage over an enemy utilizing, or simply in spite of, the terrain around them. The term does not exclusively apply to battles, and can be used more generally regarding entire campaigns or theaters of war.
Mountains, for example, can block off certain areas, making it unnecessary to station troops within the inaccessible area. This deployment strategy can be applied with other formidable environmental features as well, such as forests and cliffs. In the former instance, dense vegetation can provide concealment for tactical movements such as setting up an ambush. In the latter, the elevation can provide an advantage to soldiers using projectile weapons, such as arrows or artillery pieces. Elevation itself is perhaps the most well-known example of terrain advantage, with gravity working to the advantage of the more elevated party.
While securing a terrain advantage is an important consideration for a modern commander, particularly those engaged in unconventional tactics such as guerrilla warfare, it was undoubtedly of even greater concern for pre-industrial forces, as lack of mobility and first generation warfare left soldiers very vulnerable to its effects. The ancient military strategist Sun-Tzu, for example, dedicated an entire chapter in his influential treatise The Art of War to terrain and situational positioning.