Wander, Wonder

If You Are Prone to Wander, Will It Lead You to Wonder?

by Owen Fourie

If you do not wander, you might be missing out on life.

Before we deal with that problem, let’s unravel the confusion of two words—wonder and wander.

They are not homophones. Click on the words below and then on the loudspeaker icons that you will find for each one, and hear the difference in their pronunciation:

Both words have been used for more than 900 years. They differ from each other in their roots and meanings.

It is particularly in their use as verbs that they are confused.

  • Wonder is used as a verb and as a noun.
  • Wander is used mainly as a verb.

The meaning of wonder

A wonder is something that arouses a feeling of astonishment. It can be a strange or a surprising thing, and it makes you wonder about it, and you want to know more about it.

Ordinarily, outside the context of amazement, you might simply wonder about an idea or a possibility.

Wonder has a positive air

There is something positive about wonder in the emotions it arouses. It opens your understanding of worthwhile ventures, whether they are things of the past or possibilities for the future.

It is a word that is used to focus on some amazing achievements in human history. Consider the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The title of a famous work by Lewis Carroll includes wonder as a part of a word in its title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It is the story of a little girl’s dream that is full of imaginary wonders.

Our capacity to imagine can be the source of many wonders and many wonderful things.

Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla (1856—1943) went further. His inventions were products of his powerful imagination and his extraordinary ability to visualize them from beginning to end.

The meaning of wander

To wander is to move about without a goal or a purpose. It can be to take a leisurely stroll without the need to accomplish anything.

It can be to depart from the point of a subject under discussion, in conversation or in writing, into unrelated matters.

It can be to go astray from a standard of acceptable behavior into ways that lead to trouble.

Wander has a negative air

You can see that the word wander can be associated with negativity. This is particularly the case where there are laws and standards and expectations of duty and performance.

Consider the regrettable legend of the Wandering Jew who wanders the earth as a punishment for showing cruelty to the suffering Christ.

To wander is not bad

At this point, let’s return to the title of this article and its opening statement:

If you are prone to wander, will it lead you to wonder?

Notice that the word prone carries negative connotations, too. We speak of being prone to illness or prone to accidents.

The opening statement should bring a different angle into your thinking:

If you do not wander, you might be missing out on life.

The point is that there is a wandering that doesn’t have to bring bad things in its wake.

It is the wandering that has already been mentioned, but it does not sit well with many who fear it. It is the wandering of the mind in imagination and visualization.

To fail to wander in this way will mean missing out on much of life and its possibilities. To allow it could lead to much wonder that is positive and healthy.

When we neglect to wander, we lose the sense of wonder.

Lewis Carroll used his rich imagination in fiction as Alice wandered about in Wonderland encountering one wonder after another.

Nikola Tesla opened a world of possibilities that is being rediscovered today.

How not to confuse wonder and wander

Here is a memory trick to help you to use these two words correctly:

Wander: a is for amble which is to walk slowly. You amble along and wander about the neighborhood.

Wonder: o is for the open mouth of wonder, of astonishment—use your imagination: see the o as an open mouth. Be like Alice in Wonderland.

Wander and wonder in the media … some entertainment

Perhaps you will enjoy what you will hear at the following links. Perhaps not.

The Happy Wanderer – positive

This is a real oldie.


I Wonder as I Wander – positive

This is a carol that is sung in Western Christendom. Here are three renditions.

Cambridge Singers


Vanessa Williams


Barbra Streisand


May your wandering lead to wonder!


Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. What are your views of wandering and of using the imagination and creative visualization?

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

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