Map commonly mean either of two things: a diagram or pictorial representation of an area or concept, or a relationship between two items.
The most common usage is the former, as in cartography, including world maps, street maps, subway maps, and more. This usage also often refers to conceptual illustrations, including flow charts and mind maps.
Less common in general use is the concept of mapping one set of terms to another. For example, if “1” represents the letter “A”, “2” represents “B”, and so on, we can say we have a map, or a mapping of numbers to letters.
Of particular confusion is the common translation of assigning a drive letter to a drive or network connection. While typically not referred to as such in native English, many translations, and in fact several other languages, refer to this specifically as a “map”, and depending on the translation, Windows may have a “map” command in File Explorer. While this refers to the correct concept – mapping a drive letter to a drive or network location – it’s simply not commonly used in this manner. More typical usage is to “mount” or “attach” the drive and “assign” it a drive letter.
Many maps are static, fixed to paper or some other durable medium, while others are dynamic or interactive. Although most commonly used to depict geography, maps may represent any space, real or fictional, without regard to context or scale, such as in brain mapping, DNA mapping, or computer network topology mapping. The space being mapped may be two dimensional, such as the surface of the earth, three dimensional, such as the interior of the earth, or even more abstract spaces of any dimension, such as arise in modeling phenomena having many independent variables.
Although the earliest maps known are of the heavens, geographic maps of territory have a very long tradition and exist from ancient times. The word "map" comes from the medieval Latin Mappa mundi, wherein mappa meant napkin or cloth and mundi the world. Thus, "map" became a shortened term referring to a two-dimensional representation of the surface of the world.