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February 20, 2011 Word of the Day

February 20, 2011

Word of the Day

  • cartographer
  • audio pronunciation
  • kahr-TAH-gruh-fer


: one that makes maps

A retired cartographer, Uncle Charlie has maps of the city that date all the way to the early 1800s.

"Not so many years ago, the task of sending census statistics to the states so they could redraw voting districts involved trips to the loading dock. Cathy McCully, who heads the redistricting data division, often was on hand to oversee the mailing of boxes stuffed with computer printouts for politicians and cartographers to pore over." -- From an article in The Washington Post, December 31, 2010


Up until the 18th century, maps were often decorated with fanciful beasts and monsters, at the expense of accurate details about places. French mapmakers of the 1700s and 1800s encouraged the use of more scientific methods in the art they called "cartographie." The French word "cartographie" (the science of making maps), from which we get our English word “cartography,” was created from "carte," meaning “map,” and "-graphie," meaning “representation by.” Around the same time we adopted “cartography” in the mid-19th century, we also created our word for a mapmaker, “cartographer.”