Reading a Key on a Map

Almost all maps have a key, which contains listings for all the important symbols on the map. Now, another name for a key is a legend.

And so, you’ll find the key or legend oftentimes in the right-hand corner of the map, many times in a box just like that. And so, this legend or key is going to define the symbols on the map for various landmarks.


The transcript is for your convenience
Of course, these symbols will vary depending on the nature of the map. And so, a road map will have different colored lines in the legend indicating roads, highways, and interstates. It’ll also contain dots and circles and squares, indicating towns of different population. So, this dot right here may represent a town of 25,000 or less, and a dot with a circle around it may represent a town of 50,000 or less, and a square represents a town of 100,000 or less.

Now, the legend may also contain information about the map’s scale. So, it may say something like, “1 inch = 100 miles.” However, the scale may be located somewhere else on the map. And many legends will also contain special symbols, maybe like a picnic table to indicate a campground or a slide to represent a playground.

So, again, a key contains listings of all the important symbols on the map, as it is going to vary for different types of maps. So, the symbols I put in here would be for road maps, but another type of map would find other symbols more important.