Legend (map)

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Legend to the Franciscan Cadastre (1824)
Legend of a French road map (Michelin 1940)

The legend or explanation of symbols is a description of the symbols, signatures and colors used on a map or plan .

The legend is usually placed on the edge of the map. It contains an exemplary representation (symbol, line or rectangular area) and a description of what is shown in text form.

For some official applications, there are mandatory character codes that are specified in a law or regulation . If maps or plans are created on the basis of such a character key, the legend on the map itself is often omitted.

Examples of map symbols for a legend


Map sign Explanation
Gfi-set01-cave.png cave
Gfi-set01-archeology.png Gfi-set01-archeology1.png Sevärd.svg Archaeological site ( loop square )
  Stick and iron according to DIN 21800.svg Bail and iron according to DIN 21800 rotated by 180 degrees Mine ( mallets and iron ), closed / abandoned mine
Gfi-set01-castle.png Gfi-set01-castle1.png Castle , castle
Gfi-set01-castle-ruin.png Gfi-set01-castle-ruin1.png Castle ruins , castle ruins
Set01-church.svg Set01-church1.svg Church , chapel , monastery ( )
Gfi-set01-ruined-church.png Church ruin symbol FLC.PNG Church ruins, monastery ruins
Gfi-set01-mosque.png Gfi-set01-mosque1.png mosque
Gfi-set01-memorial.png Gfi-set01-memorial1.png monument
Gfi-set01-tower.png Gfi-set01-tower1.png tower
Gfi-set01-antenna.png Gfi-set01-antenna1.png Radio tower
Gfi-set01-trigpoint.png Gfi-set01-trigpoint.png Trigonometric point
Gfi-set01-hostel.svg hotel
Gfi-set01-airport.png Gfi-set01-airport1.png Airport
Gfi-set01-camping.png Gfi-set01-camping2.png camping
U-Bahn.svg Metro station
Gfi-set01-railway.png Gfi-set01-railway1.png railway station
Gfi-set01-stadium.svg Gfi-set01-stadium.svg Stadion
Gfi-set01-info.png Info Simple.svg Tourist Information

Lines and areas


Roads are typically divided into classes and marked with different line widths: Motorway, trunk road (federal road, state road), regional road (country and district roads), local road, paved farm road, unpaved farm road (field path) and footpath.


The map information about the terrain is summarized under the term relief . This includes:

  • Contour line (depending on the scale of the map and the shape of the terrain with an equidistance from 0.5 m), partly with hillshading
  • Terrain level
  • Rock representation
  • Embankment (both sides: embankment , incision ); in some cases the height of the slope is indicated by the length of the horizontal lines on large scales. Example:
    • BSicon DSTRa@gq.svg Ramp that rises from left to right
  • Pit and depression
  • River, stream, lake, additionally with water structures ( groynes etc.)

Topographic map

Character code for the Austrian surveying ordinance

Extract from the key to the Austrian surveying ordinance

In Austria there are such character keys for the following applications:

Web links

Commons : icons for legends  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: legend  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations