wander

wander, stray, roam, ramble, rove, range, prowl, gad, gallivant, traipse, meander can mean to move about more or less aimlessly or without a plan from place to place or from point to point. Most of these verbs may imply walking, but most are not restricted in their reference to human beings or to any particular means of locomotion.
Wander implies the absence of a fixed course or more or less indifference to a course that has been fixed or otherwise indicated; the term may imply the movement of a walker whether human or animal or of any traveler, but it may be used of anything capable of direction or control that is permitted to move aimlessly
{

wand'ring thoughtful in the silent wood— Pope

}
{

his eyes wandered over the land- scape

}
{

his mind wandered and he was unsure of himself— Shirer

}
{

she wandered frequently from her subject

}
Stray carries a stronger suggestion of deviation from a fixed, true, or proper course, and often connotes a being lost or a danger of being lost
{

fallows grey, where the nibbling flocks do strayMilton

}
{

we have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep— Book of Common Prayer

}
{

though we stumbled and we strayed, we were led by evil counsellors— Kipling

}
Roam carries a stronger suggestion of freedom and of scope than wander; it usually carries no implication of a definite object or goal, but it seldom suggests futility or fruitlessness and often connotes delight or enjoyment
{

like us, the Libyan wind delights to roam at large— Arnold

}
{

let the winged Fancy roamKeats

}
{

type of the wise who soar, but never roamWordsworth

}
{

the charm of a quiet watch on deck when one may let one's thoughts roam in space and time— Conrad

}
Ramble, in contrast, suggests carelessness in wandering and more or less indifference to one's path or goal
{

to ramble through the country and to talk about books— Marquand

}
It often, especially in its extended uses, implies a straying beyond bounds, an inattention to details that ought to serve as guides, or an inability to proceed directly or under proper restrictions
{

a vine, remarkable for its tendency, not to spread and ramble, but to mass and mount— Cather

}
{

great temptation . . . to ramble on interminably in praise of the delights of sailing— Schoettle

}
Rove comes close to roam in its implication of wandering over extensive territory, but it usually carries a suggestion of zest in the activity, and does not preclude the possibility of a definite end or purpose
{

invaders roved through the country burning and pillaging homes in their pathway

}
{

ravenous beasts freely roving up and down the country— Fuller d. 1661

}
{

to seek thee did I often rove through woods and on the green— Wordsworth

}
Range is often used in place of rove without loss; it may be preferred when literal wandering is not implied or when the stress is on the sweep of territory covered rather than on the form of locomotion involved
{

earth ships had ranged the cosmos far and wide— Theodore Sturgeon

}
{

her imperious and hoarse voice ranged over a complete octave of requited social ambitions— Cheever

}
{

his thoughts always ranged far afield— Mencken

}
Prowl implies a stealthy or furtive roving, especially in search of prey or booty. It is used not only of animals
{

even a tomcat who cannot get the tabby he wants will prowl around her prison for days— Edmund Wilson

}
but often also of human beings intent on marauding
{

now goes the ftightly thief prowling abroad— Cowper

}
but it is also applied with little or no connotation of an evil intention to persons, especially those of a restless or vagabond temperament, who rove, often singly, through the streets or the fields in a quiet and leisurely manner
{

if I should prowl about the streets a long time, don't be uneasy— Dickens

}
Gad and gallivant imply a wandering or roving especially by those who ought to be under restrictions (as servants, children, husbands or wives, and persons who have not much strength or enough money).
Gad, usually with about, may suggest a bustling from place to place idly or for the most trivial ends and often to the detriment of one's actual duties
{

her upper housemaid and laundry maid, instead of being in their business, are gadding about the village all day long— Austen

}
{

he disapproved of her gadding about by herself— Galsworthy

}
Gallivant adds to gad the implication of a search for pleasure or amusement or the use of an opportunity to display one's finery
{

her father refused to allow her to go gallivanting around with any of her suitors

}
{

young girls dressed in their Sunday best gallivanting along the high- ways

}
Traipse, which commonly suggests more vigor in movement and less aimlessness in intent than the remaining terms, may come close to come, go, or travel in meaning
{

in her late sixties she traipsed over Europe with a crony of equal years— Leavitt

}
{

how old . . . does he think a man should be before he is barred from traipsing around making political speeches— N. Y. Times

}
{

here traipsed into town a little thing from away off down in the country— Welty

}
Even when used with reference to an erratic course traipse ordinarily implies a positive purpose
{

they lacked the time and energy to traipse around looking for the sort of thing they had in mind— Kahn

}
or stresses a bustling activity
{

other crowds like this: the yellow-faced swarm that pours out of shipyards, say, at five o'clock, the swarm that traipses Oxford Street, the mad swarms at the greyhound tracks— Pritchett

}
or a wearying expenditure of energy
{

she traipsed around the provinces playing small parts in second-rate companies at a miserable salary— Maugham

}
{

kings . . . traipsed here and there with frenetic energy— J. E. M. White

}
Sometimes the term loses most of its reference to a course and then stresses a dashing or flaunting manner of going people .. . who traipsed about in trite monotonous flippery— Peggy Bennett)
{

I got a job ... as a model. I'd traipse around stepping through lace hems and gabbing to the customers— New Yorker

}
Meander may be used in reference to persons and animals but more characteristically in reference to things (as streams, paths, or roads) that follow a winding or intricate course in such a way as to suggest aimless or listless wandering
{

rivers that . . . meandered across the vast plains— Haggard

}
{

across the ceiling meandered a long crack— Galsworthy

}
{

the gray gelding meandered along through the hills— Anderson

}

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.