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The English language has long acknowledged and required some preconception of distance, but it has only been considered explicitly as a key element of human geography for half a century. The distances of greatest consequence in human geography are those between public places on the earth’s surface. Measures of physical distance have become increasingly standardized, but anomalous practices persist. Straight-line distance in nature has less applicability to human geography than route distance on a transport network. Even circuitous distance measures may be less useful measures of the separation of places than the time, expense and effort of traversing distances. Cognitive and compound distance also measure relative distance. In human geography distance is treated mainly as an organizing principle in location decision making and travel behavior, as a deterrent to spatial interaction and diffusion, and as a differentiator. Advances in rapid, long-range transport and communication have mediated sheer physical distance and rendered it less significant. Yet even while the world shrinks metaphorically, distances measured in relative terms are being reconfigured unevenly and imaginatively. Even where distance has ceased to be a material concern, the idea and discourse of distance survives.