I once read about the inability to locate a country in a world map, make any sense of a world map or the utter ignorance regarding geography, but I cannot find the resource again.

I know there's an specific English word for that condition which is to maps what illiteracy is to books. I remember it being a single word, Latin/Greek derived term, much like "agraphia" ( the inability to write ). I remember it has the "a" negative prefix.

Can anyone shed some light on it?

  • 1
    There is the opposite, geo-literacy. So maybe geo-illiteracy would work.
    – JLG
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 14:43
  • 6
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 14:49
  • 1
    – JLG
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 14:55
  • Perhaps lost? Or for a classical approach, geoidiocy?
    – bib
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 14:56
  • @JLG Topographagnosia doesn't involve the user of maps and is not inorance related but rather caused by brain damage. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 15:00

5 Answers 5


I finally found the word I was trying to remember: ingraphicacy (the inability to understand maps).

It's quoted in this University of Edinburgh thesis:


They quote:

In 1965, for example, Balchin & Coleman wrote:

It is hoped that the concepts of graphicacy and ingraphicacy will be taken up and developed by educationists, to mould the vague idea of visual aids at large into a more integrated goal of education, and to carry it down into the earliest stages to take its rightful role as one of the essential underpinnings. (p. 947)

I couldn't find the actual Balchin & Coleman work online, though.

The librarian reference of the original work is:

Balchin, W.G.V. & Coleman, A.M. [1965] Graphicacy should be the fourth ace in the pack. The Times Educational Supplement, November 5th, 947.

NOTE: Strangely, searching for the word in Google returns mostly pages written in Spanish and Portuguese (quoted the word in English) but no use in pages written in English besides the very thesis where it's mentioned.

EDIT: As @Gnomew noted, graphicacy is indeed in the dictionary. I thought it wasn't:

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  • Odd, graphicacy is certainly in M-W. In English.
    – Gnawme
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 16:32

I found that the word "immapancy" answer the question.

Please find an excerpt from a relevant The Economist article: (http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/11/cartography)

"LAST month Kai Krause, a computer-graphics guru, caused a stir with a map entitled "The True Size of Africa", which showed the outlines of other countries crammed into the outline of the African continent. His aim was to make "a small contribution in the fight against rampant Immappancy"—in particular, the fact that most people do not realise how much the ubiquitous Mercator projection distorts the relative sizes of countries."


Can I suggest a couple of neologisms? (I'm unaware of any existing terms).



since topophobia seems to mean aversion to a 'particular' place, and topograhagnosia seems to be a medical condition.

  • +1 Great neologisms, I like them. But I've just found the word I was triying to remember. I will anser my own question. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 15:08
  • "dyscartographic" sounds like name of learning disability (like dysgraphia, dyslexia or dyscalculia). I'd expect that someone dyscartographic might read maps but it did not come to him as natural as to others. Similarly someone who simply did not learn how to read maps might not posses this (probably fictional) disability. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 16:11
  • 'dys' does not intrinsically connote a learning disability. It simply means 'ill' or 'bad' as in 'dyspepsia' or 'dysfunction'.
    – user49727
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 16:35
  • Not English usage. D-I-Y candidate words are off-topic on ELU. Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 13:25

This may not be quite what you are looking for, but the developmental disorder dyscalculia (i.e. dyslexia with math instead of words) covers a number of problems dealing with mathematical equations and spatial relationships, including some difficulties related to reading and comprehending maps.

  • unworldly
  • localism
  • uneducated
  • self-centrism
  • geoignorant
  • noncartographic

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