Many researchers within the social sciences, medicine, and humanities have examined the ways people talk and think about depression. In their research and published literature they have attempted to determine the theoretical frameworks and appropriate language for categorizing such concepts and understandings. Drawing from mental health and broader social science scholarship, in this article we examine three approaches to developing an inclusive understanding of depression experiences: explanatory models, exploratory maps, and illness narratives. Utilizing these terms in the analysis of a single dataset, we identified multiple conceptual terms with potential analytical validity. Furthermore, we argue that variable usage and meanings of these concepts among lay people might contribute to a shared understanding of depression between lay people and experts, and ultimately have positive consequences for clinical practice.