wide area network - Definition from the Hotspot Shield Glossary

A WAN or Wide Area Network is essentially the opposite of a LAN (Local Area Network) and is a network that is distributed over many geographical locations.

Where a LAN is usually confined to one physical location, a WAN will be dispersed across several locations and can even pass through public networks; generally it will be composed of many inter-connected Local Area Networks and Metro Area Networks. TCP/IP protocol is the most widely used method of transport across a WAN together with such physical devices as routers, switches and modems. An example of a WAN would be the internet. The internet is dispersed over the globe through various local networks like ISP’s (Internet service providers).