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There are many words and expressions in orienteering that can be difficult for the uninitiated to understand. Here is a list of the most common ones.


Arena - competition centre. Also called TC in Swedish. 

Attack point - also called "the last safe point", a position that the orienteer chooses to "attack" the control from.  


Break (the course) - finish without visiting or punching all controls of the course.

Bulletin - PM in short in Swedish. Important information about the competition which the participant is obliged to take part of before start. 


Catching feature - a clear object to head towards, like a road, path, marsh or hill.

Chasing start - a form av start proceudre used in competitions that runs over several days, where you at the last day of competition start based on your previous results. The first one to cross the fininsh line wins. 

Chip/card - Sportident chip or card. The control chip you use for punching at the controls when the electronical time keeping system Sportident is used.

Club flag - a type of flag with the name of the club, logotype or badge which most clubs bring to competitions and marks the club’s gathering area at the arena.

Collecting feature - clear objects to pass by and “check off” in the terrain along the way between two controls.

Compass bearing - a method of navigation through the terrain with the help of a compass.

Competition centre - or arena. The main area at a competition, most often located by the finish.

Contours - brown lines on the map which serves to illustrate the shape of the ground and the changes in elevation. A continuous brown line on the map joins points of equal elevation throughout its length.

Control - the predetermined point which the participant should visit when traveling from the start to the finish. In the terrain, the control is marked with orange-white flags and with circles on the map. The number by the circle indicates in what order the controls of the course must be visited.

Control code - the number at the control in the terrain and on the control description which confirms that you are at the right control.

Control description - or the control definition. Describes the placement of the controls and which code number each control will have.

Control point - the terrain object which the control is placed at.

Cross/cut through - taking a shorter way through the terrain or open ground when switching handrails, instead of following handrails all the way until they join another one.


Direct course/open class - courses in different lengths and difficulties which is open for everyone. They are nowadays called open classes. The participants register on site and can choose the start time themselves.  

DNF - short for did not finish. Completing the course without visiting or punching all controls of the course. 


Empty and check - before starting you must empty your Sportident card memory and make sure it is working correctly.

Equidistance – describes the difference in height between two contours. Also called contour interval.  


Finish punch - the last punch of the course, where the running time stops. 

Following - running behind or “hanging on to” another orienteer at the same course, which in competition classes is illegal.

FootO - short for Foot Orienteering, the largest of the four disciplines in orienteering.

Forbidden area - or Out-of-Bounds area. Areas in the terrain which is not allowed to pass through by contestants. Besides free zones for wild animals or rare plants, are residential areas, farmed land and railway areas with forbidden access. The area is marked on the map as well is in the terrain with plastic tape, either continuous around the area or separate pieces at close intervals. 

Forking - a method of separating the contestants when a mass start is used, with the aim of avoiding that participants follow each other without doing their own map reading and route choices. In a relay context this is accomplished by having separate courses on a leg and in individual competitions by having loops in different orders.  

Full coverage clothing - due to the risk of spreading hepatitis, Swedish competitions require full length trousers and short-sleeved shirt when participating.


Green area - terrain area in the forest with reduced runnability due to vegetation/undergrowth. Marked with different kinds of green on the mark, ranging from light to dark green and from "slow running" to "walk" or "fight". 


Handrail - clear terrain features to follow in order to make the orienteering easier and more safe. Example of handrails are roads, paths, streams and powerlines. 





Linear distance - the straight way between two controls. The shortest distance seen from air/above. The total length of a course is measured by linear distance. 

Livelox – web service that provides athletes with the recorded GPS track presented on an orienteering map. A great tool for route choice analysis, missed controls and to learn about other athletes orienteering skills. 


Marka/café - a café where you can buy "fika", snacks or food at the arena of a competition. 

Meridians – thin black or blue lines that run across the map in a north-south direction. The meridian lines help you to orientate your map to the north together with the compass. 

Miniknat – a playful marked course for the youngest ones visiting orienteering competitions.

Mispunch – to punch at the wrong control, in the wrong order or to forget to punch a control.

Miss - a mistake that make you loose time during your course. 

MTBO - short for Mountain bike Orienteering. One of the younger disciplines in orienteering. 



Open classes/courses - courses in different lengths and difficulties which is open for everyone. The participants register on site and can choose the start time themselves. 

Orientate the map - turning the map until it is directed properly, which means that the north side of the map is oriented corresponding to the north in reality. 

Orienteringsmagasinet - a digital, and expanded, version of the magazine Skogssport published by the Swedish Orienteering Federation. 

O-ringen - the largest orienteering event of the world. A competition over several days during the summer, with five stages in six days. Around 15 000 participants. The competition takes place at a new location each year. 


Passage/lane - clear terrain features which together creates a natural handrail in the terrain. 

Precision orienteering - carefully reading the map and regularly checking off objects in the terrain. 

Punching - register the control chip at each of the controls of a course. 

Punch/read out - the last punch after finish, where reading of the control chip occurs to get the results in the organizers electronical system. It is mandatory to punch/read out even if the runner has not completed the entire course, due to the organizer needs to know that you have come back and are safe. 



Relay - multiple participants competing as a team, where they run one leg each and changes over to each other. 

Reverse bearing - to accidently make the mistake of heading in opposite direction of what you were planning to, that is heading 180 degrees in the wrong direction.  

Rough/simplified orienteering - to roughly reading the map and having an approximate compass bearing. Does not require that the participant checks the map or compass very often or accurate. 

Route choice - choosing the way between two controls is the core of orienteering. The best alternative is the route choice which can be safely accomplished in the least amount of time, at a level adapted to the participant. 


Shadowing - a parent, friend or leader/coach who discretely follows the athlete in the forest and steps in to help if a problem arises or if the athlete asks for help. For safety or for development purposes. 

Simplification - one of several techniques to make the orienteering task easier. 

SkiO - short for Ski Orienteering. One of the four disciplines within orienteering, with its origins in the 1890s and therefore long traditions. 

SOFT - short for the Swedish Orienteering Federation. 

Spiking - finding the control in a perfect way, without any mistakes. 

Spika - Att ta kontrollen perfekt, helt utan missar.

Split times - the total time of the course split up by each control distance. These can be analysed in the web service WinSplits

Studded shoes - trail or orienteering shoes which has studs (rubber or rubber and metal) at the outer sole to provide a better grip. 


TrailO - short for Trail Orienteering (in Swedish Precisionsorientering/PreO). One of the younger disciplines of orienteering, which is focused on the map reading. 

Thumbing/thumb grip - folding the map in a way which enables you to place your thumb where you are located or the last location you were at. Remember to move your thumb along with your route and progress of the course. 



X, Y, Z, Å, Ä


Do you lack any word or expression within orienteering, please send as a notice/question to and we will respond and add it here.