I usually write questions and answers on https://gis.stackexchange.com.

English is not my first language, and every time I have to write any of these terms I come back into doubt about which of the two corresponds.

A geodesic, can be understood as the shortest path (contained in a curved surface) between two points. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geodesic)

But I have the problem when I have to refer to something related to geodesy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geodesy), e.g., "geodesic distance", "geodesic calculations", "geodesic math", "direct geodetic problem", "geodetic datum", "geodetic coordinates".

I don't know which of the two terms I should use.

What is specifically the use that should be given to the terms "geodetic" and "geodesic"?

  • I'm a native speaker and a software engineer with significant GIS experience, and I often wonder the same thing. I do think this question is a better fit for gis.stackexchange.com as it's really about technical jargon, not the English language itself. – TypeIA Nov 28 '19 at 22:59
  • @TypeIA Thank you for the response. The question was raised in the chat room there, but the room is not very busy. I will make sure that it is not considered off topic if it is posed as a question on the GIS SE site. It is likely that there would be read by people focused on the subject, but I thought the topic was more suitable for this site. – Gabriel De Luca Nov 28 '19 at 23:33

I too frequent the GIS Stack Exchange and use English as my first language in Australia.

I was not sure of the answer so I used search terms of "adjective geodesy" to find this Dictionary.com definition for geodetic:

geodetic [jee-uh-det-ik]


  1. pertaining to geodesy.
  2. geodesic.

It looks like geodetic and geodesic mean the same thing and are equally valid to use. My preference is to use geodetic as the adjective of geodesy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.