See this:

enter image description here

What is the English word for the red markers with a letter on them? Google itself seem to use, well, marker, but I wonder if that’s too technology-related (like, say, pointer?).

I need a word that applies to red markers on the map above, but also to the real world object, like this: in other words, something with a pin that is literally placed on a map to indicate a point.

Thought about pin itself, pinpoint, but I am not sure about which is the best.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELL, nice first question
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 13:08
  • 3
    They're [virtual] map pins. They even look like real-world map pins Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 13:50
  • @FumbleFingers I have come to agree with you on map pin. I’ll gladly accept your answer.
    – natario
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 10:44
  • @m vai: Peter posted pin in his answer at the same time as I posted my comment. And it's a good answer because the implication of giving several alternatives is that this isn't a situation where every native speaker knows perfectly well what those things are called (and where everyone agrees on the same name). In practice, I suspect many people (if they unavoidably found they had to refer to one in a conversation, say) would just call it a thingamajig, thingy, doofer, doodah, whatyemacallit, whatsit, etc. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 13:18
  • @FumbleFingers ok, thanks. I’m not used to ELL and I have to say it feels kinda strange to choose among different answers the one that fits my needs. This is completely unusual on, say, Stack Overflow, where in most cases there’s one and only solution to the question, and it’s easy to look at an answer and say “oh, he definitely solved it”.
    – natario
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 15:47

4 Answers 4


Google themselves use pin to select a location: dropped pin

The red bubbles are location indicators or location tags acting as locators to mark geographic points.

Locator is possibly the single word you're looking for to call the red bubbles.

Each locator on the map points to a location of interest.

  • 1
    You are right about Google, they use marker only in their developer libraries (I’m a developer). As for locator, I personally don’t like it. I mean, if you are in a different context and you say locator, no one is going to think of this object, right?
    – natario
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 10:47
  • Fair enough, but that's a picture of a pushpin(!) If you had a caption "the locators show the points of interest" for this, I bet people would figure out what the locators are. Without a picture, the reader will look for something that indicates a location not for a specific indicator
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 11:00
  • 1
    I think that “pin", "map pin" or “pushpin" can be what I was looking for. Thank you.
    – natario
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 15:48
  • Pin is generic as is map pin, pushpin is a specific object which would not be confused with the red bubble thingy. Glad you got your answer!
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 16:38

To my mind, the best word choice would be just ''balloon mark" or "balloon pointer".

It would be simple and uncomplicated and would be easy to say also.

  • I think "balloon marker" might be better. A marker is an object or sign that shows the position of something. A mark has a more general meaning as a symbol made to indicate something.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 20:08

Officially, it's the 'Google Maps pin', that

"teardrop-shaped marker icon including a shadow"

which is part of its description found in the patent for the very thing you ask about. See Wikipedia on the Google Maps pin.

I note that the article says

The Google Maps pin has been called "a product of pure function that has evolved into a cultural phenomenon,"

which assuages my predilection for referring more to its function than its name. At least now I know what to call it, as before I was thinking just to say 'red bubble thingy' or 'red balloony thingy'.

Thus if pressed, I can call it a pin, map pin or pushpin:


a thumbtack with a spherical or cylindrical head of colored plastic, used to fasten papers to a bulletin board or to indicate positions on charts and maps

(definition found simply by googling for 'push pin define')

It's a more generic term than map pin (which I wouldn't use) and more pleasing than any such overlong term as location indicator, position locator, etc.

Although virtual tear dropped red balloony GPS/map indicator position-location marker thingy might work. ;)

  • "which assuages my predilection for"? I'm all for not dumbing down our writing, but I think that's pretty advanced vocabulary for this sort of question. You might want to do a quick review with your target audience in mind. I know sometimes I lose the big picture after I spend some time working on a post, so I'm trying to be helpful here, not critical.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 3:16
  • 1
    No problem for me specifically, I just learned a new word. Thank you for your answer!
    – natario
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 8:31

I think the phrase indicating balloon is okay because the indicator is very much like a balloon (balloon shaped).

  • An "indicating balloon" is most commonly used to refer to a particular part of a medical device that shows some information about pressure when the balloon appears inflated or deflated (at least in AmE). I would probably say just "indicator" instead of indicating balloon.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 16:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .