Like someone who is proficient in/at something, for example:

He is proficient in English.

She is proficient at her job.

Maybe there are more synonyms for proficient, but I used that to give my examples. I believe it is more formal and distinct than 'be good at something'.

So, how to describe a person who knows a place very well, and they can say; we know every nook and cranny, or like a mother she knows her child.

  • Can you call that person an expert of that area?
    – Hank
    Dec 20, 2016 at 21:38
  • Proficient certainly doesn't conjure up an image of expert, knowing everything there is to know.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 20, 2016 at 21:41
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach An expert doesn't necessarily know everything. An expert simply has a comprehensive knowledge of a subject. Proficient was an example the OP used and I don't think the answer has to line up perfectly with Proficient, although the two words can be synonymous in certain situations...
    – Hank
    Dec 20, 2016 at 21:51
  • Googling for "proficient synonym " gives a zillion results. Can you clarify why none of those suit you purpose ?
    – k1eran
    Dec 20, 2016 at 22:55
  • 1
    @haha As I've already commented below, your Q. was entitled "A word describing someone who knows a place or an area very well"; and specifically asked "how to describe a person who knows a place very well". In this context, the answer is to describe them as "(very) familiar with the place". You cannot use "proficient" in that way, and there is no description analogous to "proficient". The closest options are "very familiar with", or "has a good knowledge of", or "knows the place very well".
    – TrevorD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 12:30

8 Answers 8


In my experience, that word most commonly used for this is simply familiar, carrying the sixth verb definition from Merriam-Webster:

having personal or intimate knowledge —used with with <familiar with the facts of the case>

Examples of how this can be used:

Q: Excuse me, can you please direct me the nearest gas station? A: Sorry, I'm not familiar with this neighborhood.

I just moved here a few months ago, but I already feel familiar with the local traffic patterns.

  • 1
    I believe "being familiar with something" is not like "being proficient in/at something". E.g. "She is familiar with that job" is not quit like "she is proficient at that job".
    – haha
    Dec 21, 2016 at 12:09
  • 2
    @haha Your Q. was entitled "A word describing someone who knows a place or an area very well"; and specifically asked "how to describe a person who knows a place very well". In this context, the answer is to describe them as "(very) familiar with the place".
    – TrevorD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 12:27

Not a single word, but an apt phrase:

  • She knows this area like the back of her hand.

Trying to find an answer, I came across up on something.

Here are the definition and some examples:

knowledgeable about someone or something.

Ask Tom about the author of this book. He's up on stuff like that. (TFT)

Conrad’s really up on his geography, isn’t he? (Longman)

You’re really up on the celebrity gossip, aren’t you? (Macmillan)

‘Anyway, you seem to be up on physics, and you seem to know what I'm saying so maybe you could help me here.’ (OED)


In Swedish we have the exact word "bevandrad" literally "walked about".

It translates to acquainted, versed or skilled.

There is a word "bewandered".


bewander ‎(third-person singular simple present bewanders, present participle bewandering, simple past and past participle bewandered)

(intransitive) To wander around or about; roam.  

I would describe that person as being native to the area. For me, this implies that they know the area intimately (analogous to your "like a mother she knows her child").

If someone described themselves as a native speaker, you would expect them not only to be fluent, but also knowledgeable of slang, idioms, etc.

If you were visiting an area and someone asked you for directions, you may well reply "sorry, I'm not a native".

  • -1 The primary definition of native is "A person born in a specified place or associated with a place by birth, whether subsequently resident there or not" (Oxford Dict.); Cambridge Dictionary has a similar definition. Altho' Oxford does give a sub-definition of "A local inhabitant", in my view the 'born in' implication is overwhelming unless the context makes the alternative clear. Additionally, you can know one or more places very well because you have visited them a lot, even if you have never lived there; but you cannot be 'native' to more than one of them. [continued ...]
    – TrevorD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 13:06
  • [... continued] Moreover, I no longer know my birth-town very well because I rarely visit it - but I am still a 'native' of it. Conversely, I do know my (now) local town fairly well - but I would never describe myself as a 'native' of it.
    – TrevorD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 13:10
  • P.S. Your own linked definition of native also bears out my above comments.
    – TrevorD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 13:23
  • I have a friend who was born in London, but moved to Edinburgh aged 2. He went to university in Edinburgh and started his career there. He moved back to London for work and has lived there for many years. He has a Scottish Accent, supports Hibs, and knows Edinburgh like the back off his hand. According to your interpretation of the dictionary, he is a native of London, but he would consider himself a native of Edinburgh. If native has any meaning, it's surely that you have an innate experience of a place, having spent your formative years there. A native New Yorker didn't move out aged 5.
    – JonLarby
    Dec 21, 2016 at 15:18
  • I'd be prepared to extend native to including 'where someone spent their formative years' (as your friend did) rather than strictly where they were born. But that's still very different from using it to refer to any place that they are 'very familiar' with - which is my understanding of the Q. Presumably, your friend is also 'very familiar' with parts of London, tho' not 'a native'? Hence, altho' 'a native' is a suitable example, it doesn't fully address the Q. of how to describe anyone who is 'proficient' in the place/area.
    – TrevorD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 15:36

I think there is an obvious and simple answer: a local.

This needs perhaps a little justification because the dictionary definition given is "an inhabitant of a particular area or neighbourhood", which doesn't imply proficiency. However, I would argue that having simply moved to a place doesn't qualify a person as a local and in reality to achieve this status in the eyes of other locals can require years of acclimatization. Locals are expected to have knowledge of a place that certainly meets the proficiency requirement. For example, if you want to find a good place to eat, what do you do? Ask a local!

  • -1 I don't dispute that a local should be very familiar with a place, to the extent of 'proficiency'. But, you don't have to be a local to be very familiar with a place: regular visitors can also be very familiar with a place, to the extent of 'proficiency'. For that reason, I disagree that a local is a suitable answer to the Q. - it's too narrow.
    – TrevorD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 15:32
  • @TrevorD Clearly there is no such perfectly matching word in common usage. In a context where it is applicable, however, "a local" is much better than clunky expressions like "person familiar with the area" that nobody would ever use.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Dec 21, 2016 at 16:50
  • I - and, from the comments, others - disagree, and feel that some form of words using variants familiar or know are commonly used.
    – TrevorD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 17:40
  • The question was "is there a word?". No there is not a word, and familiar is clearly too general a word on its own. You could just say a "person who knows a place well".
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Dec 21, 2016 at 17:53

Although using “GPS-like” as an adjective to describe such a person directly might be awkward (cf: my last example**), their knowledge of an area could be described as “GPS-like”:

He/She has a GPS-like knowledge of this city.

Her/His knowledge of this city is GPS-like.

** S/He’s GPS-like [like a GPS] when it comes to navigating [in] this city.

(see The Best American Essays 2015, edited by Ariel Levy, Robert Atwan, via Google Books for an example of “GPS-like knowledge” and the first line of Urban Dictionary’s entry for “GeePS” for its use as an adjective to modify “sense of direction”)


The question is unclear about whether it is a general term for expertise being sought, or a word specific to a geographical expertise. In the general sense, "expert" might serve, unless that sounds to much like an aknowledged authority for your use.

In that case, "maven" comes to mind. Maven is defined by Merriam-Webster as

one who is experienced or knowledgeable

or, in their definition for English Language Learners

a person who knows a lot about a particular subject

edit: In a case that reverses standard reading practices these days, I read the question but had only skimmed the headline/title. It seems clear that the OP is concerned with expertise in a location. I'm leaving the answer in case it interests anyone and also as cautionary tale...

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