What Does a Map Legend Mean?


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A map legend is a table or box on a map that explains what the symbols, forms, and colours on the map imply. The map key is another name for the map legend. A scale is frequently included in the map legend to assist the map reader in determining distances.

Historically, map legends were static components on printed maps, but interactive digital maps frequently include dynamic map legends.

Read More: What Does Non-Matter Mean?

What does a map legend contain?

A map legend uses colours, forms, and symbols to define a particular map feature. Areas of lakes, rivers, and mountain ranges may be emphasised in the map legend for the type of map being used on a physical location map.

On a political map, you’ll see areas of influence for a political party or a specific candidate. A map legend will depict the major political influences, such as parties, in a certain state or region using colours and forms.

Making Use of a Map Legend

Map legends are usually found near the top or bottom of a map, and they include a colour or symbol as well as a description of what those colours and symbols imply. Check your map area, then review the map key for a more detailed description of the area you’re looking at.

The map legend also serves to demonstrate connections between various elements. You can be in a big city and want to look at the subway map instead of taking the bus or driving. The map and legend may show you not only the distance but also the difficulty or ease of your subway journey. A printed map legend’s ability to show spatial relationships is a valuable feature.

Legends for Different Maps

Because there are so many various sorts of maps, the map legend differs depending on the map’s purpose. The shapes and symbols on physical geographic region maps most often indicate the locations of towns and cities, rivers and lakes, government buildings, county borders, and highways.

The map legend will be different on more specialised maps. Doors, windows, exits, stairwells, fences, property boundaries, and other features of a large structure or complex, for example, will be indicated in the map legend.

Different types of printed maps

Mapmakers and cartographers have been creating maps for travellers since the dawn of time. Early maps were created on clay tablets, then parchment paper, and lastly printed maps and book atlases.

There are many different sorts of maps and legends available today. Common folding printed road maps and big road maps in bound atlases are available. Weather and climate maps are used by meteorologists. Reference maps, political maps, population maps, gender maps, and more are all available.

The Advantages of Printed Maps

Due to the rise of satellite-assisted GPS on mobile devices, printed maps have fallen out of favour during the last 20 years. Few of us could live without the ability to have a voice guide you in your car via your mobile device today. Printed maps and their legends, on the other hand, may often guide us in ways that little screens cannot.

Looking at a wider map, for example, might provide passengers a sense of what’s in the surrounding area as well as the direct route to the destination. If you have a hiking map, you can use it to estimate the distance between your starting point and your turnaround loop.