v. wan·dered, wan·der·ing, wan·ders
1. To move about without a definite destination or purpose.
2. To go by an indirect route or at no set pace; amble: We wandered toward town.
3. To proceed in an irregular course; meander: The path wanders through the park.
4. To behave in a manner that does not conform to morality or norms: wander from the path of righteousness.
5. To turn the attention from one subject to another with little clarity or coherence of thought: I had a point to make, but my mind started wandering.
6. To be directed without an object or in various directions: His eyes wandered to the balcony.
1. To wander across or through: wander the forests and fields.
2. To be directed around or over: Her gaze wandered the docks.
The act or an instance of wandering.
[Middle English wanderen, from Old English wandrian.]
Synonyms: wander, ramble, roam, rove1, range, meander, stray, gallivant, gad1
These verbs mean to move about at random or without destination or purpose. Wander and ramble stress the absence of a fixed course or goal: The professor wandered down the hall lost in thought. "They would go off together, rambling along the river" (John Galsworthy).
Roam and rove emphasize freedom of movement, often over a wide area: "Herds of horses and cattle roamed at will over the plain" (George W. Cable). "For ten long years I roved about, living first in one capital, then another" (Charlotte Brontë).
Range suggests wandering in all directions: "a large hunting party known to be ranging the prairie" (Francis Parkman).
Meander suggests leisurely wandering over an irregular or winding course: "He meandered to and fro ... observing the manners and customs of Hillport society" (Arnold Bennett).
Stray refers to deviation from a proper course or area: "The camels strayed to graze on the branches of distant acacias" (Jeffrey Tayler).
Gallivant refers to wandering in search of pleasure: gallivanted all over the city during our visit. Gad suggests restlessness: gadded about unaccompanied in foreign places.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.