At first glance, the words “uncharted” and “unchartered” look almost identical. But the pesky extra “-er-” in “unchartered” changes the meaning entirely.
As a result, it is easy to use these terms incorrectly, even if you have a vague idea of what they mean! Luckily, we’re here to help.
Uncharted (Unmapped or Unknown)
The word “uncharted” means “unexplored” or “unknown.” It helps to remember that “chart” is also a word for a map, so “uncharted” means “not yet on the map.” This can apply both to physical regions and areas of knowledge.
We could use it in a very literal sense, like this:
We know little about the uncharted depths of the sea.
Or we could use it in a more metaphorical sense:
Nuclear fission is a largely uncharted area for science.
But this word is always about something unknown.
Unchartered (Without a Charter)
The word “unchartered,” meanwhile, is an adjective meaning “lacking a charter.” The charter here is a document that grants rights or authorizes someone to work in a specific role. For example:
He ran his business as an unchartered bank.
Find this useful?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.
This means “unauthorized” or “lacking regulation.” However, this term is rare in most contexts, so you should not need to use it on a regular basis.
One common error with these terms occurs with the phrase uncharted territory. This figure of speech means “a new and unknown area,” usually in relation to a field of activity or thought:
Virtual reality is still uncharted territory for many entertainment companies.
As such, “uncharted” is always the right word in this context. Remember:
Uncharted territory – Correct
Unchartered territory – Incorrect
Uncharted or Unchartered?
Since “unchartered” is so rare, most of the time the word you’ll need is “uncharted.” Remember:
Uncharted means “unknown” or “unmapped.”
Unchartered means “without a charter.”
If you would like to have an essay checked for errors, take advantage of the specialist service offered by Proofed today!