With only one letter of difference, wander and wonder look nearly the same and sound similar, too. On top of that, they’re both used as verbs — action words.*
With all those similarities, writers easily confuse the two, but each word has its own meaning.
*Sometimes, wonder is used as a noun — more on that later!
Wander and Wonder
Wander, with an a, is a verb that means “to roam or to move around with no direction.” Wonder, with an o, is a verb that means “to marvel or think about curiously.”
You can find more details about using wander and wonder below.
When to Use Wander — with Examples
When we wander, we walk about aimlessly or roam with no real destination in mind.
With nothing to do in town, Amy wandered through the forest.
Sometimes wander means “to stray from the path.” It’s often used figuratively, as in,
Though he tries to listen, Austen’s attention wanders during his grammar lessons.
Some popular songs use the word wander, like the 60s hit “The Wanderer” — he’s the type of guy who likes to roam around. And Lana del Ray tells us, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” — that is, even if you have nowhere to go, it doesn’t mean you don’t know where you are.
When to Use Wonder — with Examples
If I wonder about something, I’m thinking about it or pondering it with curiosity.
Michael wonders what makes clouds stay up in the air.
To wonder can also mean to marvel, to feel a sense of astonishment.
Esmeralda wondered at the beauty of the cathedral.
But Wait, There’s More — Wandering through the Forest of Wonder
While wonder as a verb can mean to marvel or feel astonishment, wonder as a noun can mean a marvelous thing, as in,
The Great Pyramids of Giza are truly a wonder.
And it can also refer to the feeling of astonishment, as in,
They were filled with wonder at the sight of the Pyramids.
Well-known examples of this sense of wonder are the book title Alice in Wonderland and the song “Winter Wonderland” — a wonderland is a land filled with marvels, amazement, and astonishing things.
And if you didn’t have anywhere in particular to go, you could even wander through a wonderland.
Wander Vs. Wonder — Which to Use
Use wander to refer to roaming.
Use wonder to refer to thinking or marveling. As a noun, you can use wonder to mean a marvel, something amazing.
Can You Give Me a Trick to Remember the Difference?
The best trick I can come up with is this:
Wander starts with w and a, just like the word walk (we even use the same “ah” sound for both of the words). To wander is to move around aimlessly, to roam—something you could do while walking.
I wonder if that trick will help you!
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