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Does the use or meaning of "chart" or "map" vary worldwide?

Is there a difference between a chart and map?

  • $\begingroup$ If you don't get a good answer here. you might also try english.SE $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jul 8, 2018 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ AERONAUTICAL CHART− A map used in air navigation containing all or part of the following: topographic features, hazards and obstructions, navigation aids, navigation routes, designated airspace, and airports. Commonly used aeronautical charts are:… FAA Pilot Controller Glossary: faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/media/pcg_10-12-17.pdf $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Jul 8, 2018 at 17:13

3 Answers 3


Colloquially, I would say not really, by definition yes.

I think the simplest way to put is is:

All charts are maps but not all maps are charts.

Websters defines a chart as

: map: such as

a : an outline map exhibiting something (such as climatic or magnetic variations) in its geographical aspects

b : a map for the use of navigators

while they define a map as

a : a representation usually on a flat surface of the whole or a part of an area

b : a representation of the celestial sphere or a part of it

c : a diagram or other visual representation that shows the relative position of the parts of something

In other words, maps are outlines of part or all of something while charts contain potentially more information like that needed to navigate or identify airspace. Interestingly according to the definition, if used for navigation its a chart.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The way I understand it is... a map will usually show the ground and features that are attached to the ground (trees, masts, roads). Whereas a chart will also show none physical features such as airspace, graticules, etc. $\endgroup$
    – BDLPPL
    Jul 10, 2018 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ When I asked this I really did not differentiate between the two. I gave this as an answer but there certainly is grey areas. For example a city street "map" often includes street names, highway exit numbers, recreational parks, political boundries, etc - none of which are visual geographical objects. But I enjoyed learning something. $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Feb 16, 2019 at 8:39

I was taught that charts give information on three dimensions of space while maps only represent two dimensional information.

For example, In the VFR sectional chart above, the altitude of various air-spaces, airports and key landmarks are indicated. For nautical charts, the depth of the water is indicated.

  • $\begingroup$ Despite a clear overlap in the definitions of the two words, I do see the common sense approach to this explanation - thanks. $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Feb 16, 2019 at 8:40

Mathematically, (and technically), a Map is any one-to-one or one-to-many association between the items in one set (or list) and the items in another set or list. You can have a map between the items on the surface of the earth and the points on a chart, but you can also have a map between the cities in the country and the individuals who are the mayors of those cities, or between dates, and the events that took place on those dates, or between the colors in the spectrum, and the frequency of the light that generates the color, etc. etc.

Check out This Wikipedia article about "Mapping". In general, the result of any "Mapping" is a "Map" but only those maps that relate geographic or spatial (2D or 3D) points in space to a visual representation of those points are "charts".

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    $\begingroup$ The mathematical meaning of "map" is quite certainly not relevant here. $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2018 at 21:30

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