Originally published in December 2009

That's a Good Word

There are many useful words that find their origins in geography. Here are just a few.


This word of course refers to a “drawing or other representation of all or part of the Earth’s surface.” But it has many other uses in written or spoken language. For instance, a high school freshman might decide to “map out” a strategy for picking the right classes and planning ahead for a successful school year. A high school coach will almost always map a game plan for his or her team’s next game.

This word is fairly common. Its first definition is “to steer or direct a ship or craft.” But again, accomplished writers and speakers make good use of this word in other contexts. For example, it is often said that it is not easy to navigate successfully through one’s teenage years. Planning ahead, making good choices, and plotting sound strategies are all considered helpful ways to navigate successfully through high school.

Webster’s defines this word as “a flowing together, especially of two rivers or streams.” But it can also mean a coming together of people or ideas. Confluence is an excellent word. Using this word in writing or speaking will indicate that you have a strong vocabulary. Exercising a strong vocabulary can cause a confluence between a good paycheck and your wallet.

This word usually refers to the “windings, convolutions, or not straight patterns or a stream or river.” But writers and speakers who are good with words often use this word in other ways. For instance, a person who tells stories (even good stories) or rambles while speaking is said to be meandering. Some people like to meander through a good book store, library, or mall. To wander aimlessly, or to take a tortuous and indirect course is to meander. Taking the scenic route on a road trip is a form of meandering. Reporters for this newspaper like to meander when we go on museum trips. We often meander to our destination because we like explore, take the scenic route, and look for good stories to print.