The Difference Between Forests, Woods, and Jungles

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Some people might say that it’s no big deal if you use these words incorrectly because everyone knows what you’re generally referring to, but as someone who makes her living writing, I think that words – and semantics – do actually matter.

Language is hard, but it’s necessary, and the key to doing almost anything in life successfully is communication.

So, let’s all link arms and, in the spirit of using English correctly, find out the key differences between forests, woods, and jungles.


According to Merriam-Webster, a forest is “a dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.” Woods, on the other hand are “a dense growth of trees usually greater in extent than a grove and smaller than a forest.”

Basically, they are the same but a forest is bigger. U.S. and European scientists would say that it depends on factors like density of trees and other undergrowth, etc, and that it must cover at least 1.24 total acres, with the canopy cover exceeding 10% of the acreage.

Woods must span the same acreage, but they can be less dense, with canopy covers as low as 5%.

In Australia, plant ecologist Raymond Specht’s classification system calls any tree-populated land with less than 30% canopy a woodland, and anything more dense a forest.


Jungles are a different beast, and don’t actually have specific classifications.

In fact, scientists don’t call them jungles at all, but tropical forests. They’re located around the Equator and have the highest species diversity per area in the world, and are s densely populated by flora and fauna that they’re defined as “tangled” and “impenetrable.”

Now, since most of us aren’t walking around with the equipment necessary to measure acreage and the percentage of canopy cover, it’s understandable (and fine) to interchange woods and forests for moderately-sized tracts of trees and vegetation.

If you’re aware that it’s a giant swath of land, you’d be best going with “forest.”


If the setting is tropical, the colloquial “jungle,” would work, though you can be fancy now and choose “tropical forest” instead.

You’re welcome! 😉

And now we all know – I, for one, definitely feel smarter for us doing this together!