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Mosgiel stands at the north-eastern extremity of the Taieri Plains. The Silver Stream, a tributary of the Taieri River, runs through its north end. The town celebrates its location, calling itself "The pearl of the plain". Its low-lying nature does pose problems, making it prone to flooding after heavy rains.

The place takes its name from Mossgiel in Ayrshire, the farm of the poet Robert Burns, the uncle of the co-founder in 1848 of the Otago settlement, the Reverend Thomas Burns.

A popular, though probably apocryphal, local theory is that the extra "s" was dropped at a time when the cost of telegrams was calculated by the number of characters. The name of the Dunedin suburb of Roslyn (named for Rosslyn in Scotland) is similarly truncated.

Between Mosgiel and the centre of Dunedin stand the rugged Three Mile Hill and Scroggs Hill, which form part of the crater-wall of a long-extinct volcano, the crater being the Otago Harbour.

To the south of the town lies one of the many peaks that formed part of the volcano: Saddle Hill, a prominent landmark, visible from a considerable distance and notable for its distinctive shape, lies east of State Highway One where Kinmont Park, a new housing subdivision is located at the foot of the hill.

The Dunedin Southern Motorway, upgraded in 2003, links Mosgiel with the centre of Dunedin. State Highway 87 to Kyeburn starts at a junction with State Highway 1 at the southeastern edge of Mosgiel, the first part of the highway being the main street of Mosgiel, Gordon Road.

The site of Mosgiel figures in Māori legend, but surrounding features of the Taieri Plain and adjacent hills have older mythical associations. Of the canoes of South Island migratory legend the fourth and fifth, Takitimu and Arai Te Uru, are mentioned in connection with the area. Maungatua, the large hill to the west of the plain, represents a huge wave which struck the Takitimu, throwing overboard Aonui, who became a pillar on the Tokomairiro Beach.

Mosgiel's town sign forms an unusual feature. Modelled on the famous Hollywood Sign, the seven letters of the Mosgiel sign perch on a hillside at the northeastern edge of the town, close to State Highway 1. Because of this sign locals sometimes (though not very often) jokingly refer to the town as "Mollywood". The distinctive outline of Saddle Hill forms the Western border of the greater Mosgiel area.

In Template:As of years Mosgiel has experienced increased urbanisation and a rapid growth in population. The revival has come about in part due to people moving from Dunedin's inner suburbs. Mosgiel has Template:As of seen the opening or refurbishment of cafés and bars aimed at a younger market, and workers have built stages one and two of a planned larger playground.

Mosgiel has recently become home to the first Warehouse Local store, and a McDonalds restaurant was planned to go next to New World, however due to strict restrictions that would be imposed on the restaurant the idea has been scrapped.

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