what3words

The perfect tool for finding and guiding people to a precise location
– as is its rival, Plus Code


Hadrian's Wall at Housesteads Roman Fort (Vercovicium), an English Heritage site near Hexham in Northumberland. Its what3words are rental.puzzle.outcasts. Photo: Peter Mann.

By Margot Eagle

what3words is the perfect tool for finding and guiding people to a precise location, which street addresses and post codes don’t always do; most people also find it far less confusing than GPS coordinates – and it’s free to use.

Hadrian's Wall at Housesteads Roman Fort (Vercovicium), an English Heritage site near Hexham in Northumberland. Its what3words are likes.spooned.cosmic. Photo: Peter Mann.

Hadrian’s Wall at Housesteads Roman Fort near Hexham. Photo: Peter Mann.

It’s particularly useful for guiding emergency services to a rural location… like East Hatley or Hatley St George – say the children’s play area in Hatley St George, for which the three words are suspect.jousting.prefer.

How does it work?

what3words has divided the world into 3 metre squares and given each square a unique combination of three words e.g. cleanser.ordeals.acting for St Denis’ church in East Hatley.

All you have to do is put your postcode or location into the what3words website search engine and you’ll be rewarded with three words to assist friends, delivery drivers and other visitors to find your home or business easily.

Imagine you’ve told a friend you’ll meet them at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.

Defining which bit of its 73 miles would prove tricky if all you had was a postcode – but it’s no problem with what3words.

So if you want to meet where Peter took the photo on this page, just go to rental.puzzle.outcasts (and hope the weather is as good!).

what3words also has lots of other applications which you can find out about on the what3words website.

You can put the app onto your phone or look at the website on your PC.

It’s fantastically useful – and was developed by someone from Gamlingay.


Plus Code

what3words has a rival (writes Peter Mann). It’s called Plus Code and, because it’s run by Google, means using it takes one straight to Google maps, with its instant option of ‘directions’.

Although the code doesn’t have the romanticism of what3words’ words – e.g. 4VQG+5H for St Denis’ and 4VV8+F3 for Hatley St George church – it’s arguably more efficient, although it probably helps to know your NATO Phonetic Alphabet (other websites are available – this one sets out the alphabet most clearly).

Post created 29th April 2022. Plus Code information added 23rd September 2022.