What Is the Difference Between Absolute and Relative Location?

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Absolute location is a place’s exact spot on a map, while relative location is an estimate of where a place is in relation to other landmarks. Absolute location is defined by latitude and longitude measurements. Relative location is used in conversational language and for giving rough directions.

Absolute and relative location are two common methods of relating where streets, cities, stores and other important places are found on Earth. These systems of measurement are sympathetic to one another, with relative locations defined by their distribution around absolute locations on a map.

Absolute locations are used for scientific measurements. They are essential for cartography, meteorology and sciences that rely on the placement of physical landmarks on the Earth’s surface to make accurate predictions or generate clear conclusions. Even astrology and space exploration need absolute location and technology tied to them to make flights and exploration successful.

Relative locations are more colloquial and defined by their relation to other places. These are not scientific or absolute measurements, but they do offer familiarity and ease of understanding. That makes them especially important for giving directions or remembering routes. Relative locations make it easy to associate places with one another in a way that generates a personal map of a landscape.