Hike and wander are both common words when talking about walking, but they are very different in their meaning. For example, you wouldn’t usually hike the through a shopping mall for hours at a time. Neither would you wander up Mount Everest? Let’s first look at each word separately and then compare the two.
Hike (noun or verb)
Synonym: trek, raise.
The most common use of the word “hike” is for when describing a long distance walk, usually through nature.
- let’s go hiking in the forest.
- they hiked Great Bear Mountain last weekend.
Hiking is also associated with some kind of incline (movement upwards), this is why it’s commonly used for walks taken in the mountains. It’s both used as a verb to explain the action of hiking, or as a noun to talk about the activity of hiking, e.g.,
- We went on a hike.
An example of hike:
John: What did you do this weekend, Tom?
Tom: My friends and I hiked (v) through the mountains. We go every week.
John: That sounds like fun. Could I come with you on a hike (n) someday?
Tom: Of course. You can come with us this Saturday if you like.
Another common meaning of the word “hike” is an increase in something, most frequently in regards to a quick and significant movement upwards. This definition is often used when talking about the stock market and prices for products.
- If for example, shoppers have seen a hike in the price of eggs in 2016.
More so for older people than the younger generation of today, hike is additionally used when talking about lifting or pulling up clothing.
- For example, if it had rained a man might “hike up his jeans” to keep them dry, meaning that he would lift up his jeans.
Now let’s look at the word wander, and what makes it so different.
Synonyms: stroll, roam, stray
Wander isn’t usually used as a noun unless you say that you will “go for a wander,” which is synonymous with going for a stroll. Wander basically means to walk or move around without having a set destination or goal.
Whereas hiking is often done for exercise and excitement, wandering is casual, often entertaining, and done without much effort. Someone can “wander around” a museum for hours, looking at the artwork, for example. Or if you were to visit Paris, you may wander around the city, enjoying all the new things to see and do.
An example of wander:
Sarah: Tom and I had a lovely weekend holiday in Paris.
Yvonne: Oh really? What did you like the most about it?
Sarah: I loved just wandering around the old narrow streets, looking at all the shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Another use of wander is when talking about something leaving or not sticking with a particular or previously held path. This is both true for real physical experiences, but also for our thinking.
- The ship wandered off course because of the captain’s mistake.
(Which means that the ship started going in a direction that wasn’t part of the plan, because of an error in direction made by the captain)
- As I sat in the classroom, my mind wandered, dreaming of everything I would do when I got home. (This means that instead of paying attention in class, they had started thinking about other things, similar to daydreaming.)
- While in the beautiful museum, my eyes wandered around, taking in all the beautiful sights. (This means that the person didn’t have a single point they were looking. Instead, they casually looked all around them to enjoy seeing the different items)
A simple tip when deciding whether to use Hike vs. Wander.
Not sure which one you would like to use? Here’s a quick summary to help you. If you want to talk about an exciting or adventurous walk or a long journey on foot that takes effort, use hike.
But, if you want to speak of a casual walk or movement without a particular destination or goal then wander is the better choice of word.