AskDefine | Define north

Dictionary Definition

north adj : situated in or facing or moving toward or coming from the north; "artists like north light"; "the north portico" [ant: south]


1 the region of the United States lying north of the Mason-Dixon Line
2 the United States (especially the northern states during the American Civil War); "he has visited every state in the Union"; "Lee hoped to detach Maryland from the Union"; "the North's superior resources turned the scale" [syn: Union]
3 the cardinal compass point that is at 0 or 360 degrees [syn: due north, N]
4 any region lying in or toward the north [syn: northland, septentrion]
5 the direction in which a compass needle points [syn: magnetic north, compass north]
6 British statesman under George III whose policies led to rebellion in the American colonies (1732-1792) [syn: Frederick North, Second Earl of Guilford] adv : in a northern direction; "they earn more up north"; "Let's go north!" [syn: to the north, in the north, northerly, northwards, northward]

User Contributed Dictionary

see North



IPA: /nɔːθ/ or /noːɻθ/
SAMPA: /nO:T/ or /no:r\`T/


Old English norþ


  1. One of the four major compass points, specifically 0°, directed toward the North Pole, and conventionally upwards on a map.
  2. The up or positive direction.
    Stock prices are heading north.
  3. The positive or north pole of a magnet, which seeks Earth's magnetic North Pole (which, for its magnetic properties, is a south pole).


compass point
up or positive direction
  • Finnish: koillinen
north pole of a magnet
  • Finnish: pohjoisnapa


  1. Toward the north; northward.
  2. Of wind, from the north.
  3. Of or pertaining to the north; northern.
  4. Pertaining to the part of a corridor used by northbound traffic.
    north highway 1




  1. Toward the north; northward.
  2. Of wind, from the north.
  3. Of or pertaining to the north; northern.
  4. Pertaining to the part of a corridor used by northbound traffic.
    north highway 1

Extensive Definition

This is about the direction; for other uses, see North (disambiguation).
North is one of the four cardinal directions, specifically the direction that, in Western culture, is treated as the fundamental direction:
  • North is used (explicitly or implicitly) to define all other directions.
  • The (visual) top edges of maps usually correspond to the northern edge of the area represented, unless explicitly stated otherwise or landmarks are considered more useful for that territory than specific directions.


North can mean:
  1. true north, the direction along the earth's surface toward one pole of the earth's rotation, namely the pole that is clearly on one's left when standing at the Equator while facing the rising sun.
  2. magnetic north, the direction along the earth's surface in which horizontal magnetic field strength has its most positive value (but the eventual next "flipping" of the magnetic poles, perhaps in a few thousand years, implies this awkward wording: "the north magnetic pole will later lie in the southern hemisphere".)
  3. a loosely specified direction, usually within half a right angle of true north, especially when stating travel instructions in an area where directions of travel are constrained by an approximately rectangular grid of streets, hallways, etc.; this is often called 'grid north' or 'plan north'.
  4. the orientation of a traveller with respect to a visible or otherwise definite continuous two-way route, such that sustained travel over the whole of the route produces a change of position to a location further north, even if that involves travelling a part of the route in another direction, even straight south; often termed "northbound".
  5. pertaining to the part of a route mainly or exclusively used by northbound traffic, where southbound traffic is separated by barriers, or where both are encouraged to stay mostly in one portion by Rules of the road; often termed "northbound".
  6. used euphemistically to refer to the direction of travel toward a goal, such as in football, the direction toward the opponents goal is north, and when players are moving crossways and not making progress toward the goal, they are said to be moving "east-west".


The word north is traced to the Old High German nord, and the Proto-Indo-European unit ner-, meaning "left" (or "under"). (Presumably a natural primitive description of its concept is "to the left of the rising sun".)
Latin borealis is from Greek boreas "north wind, north", in mythology (according to Ovid) personified as the son of the river-god Strymon, and father of Calais and Zetes; septentrionalis is from septentriones, "the seven plow oxen", a name of Ursa Maior. Greek arktikos "northern" is named for the same constellation (c.f. Arctic).

Magnetic north and declination

Magnetic north is of interest because it is the direction indicated as north on a properly functioning (but uncorrected) magnetic compass. The difference between it and true north is called the magnetic declination (or simply the declination where the context is clear). For many purposes and physical circumstances, the error in direction that results from ignoring the distinction is tolerable; in others a mental or instrument compensation, based on assumed knowledge of the applicable declination, can solve all the problems. But simple generalizations on the subject should be treated as unsound, and as likely to reflect popular misconceptions about terrestrial magnetism.

Roles of north as prime direction

The visible rotation of the night sky about the visible celestial pole provides a vivid metaphor of that direction corresponding to up. Thus the choice of the north as corresponding to up in the northern hemisphere, or of south in that role in the southern, is, prior to world-wide communication, anything but an arbitrary one. On the contrary, it is of interest that Chinese culture even considered south as the proper top end for maps.
In Western culture:
  • Up is a metaphor for north
  • Maps tend to be drawn for viewing with either true north or magnetic north at the top
  • Globes of the earth have the North Pole at the top, or if the earth's axis is represented as inclined from vertical (normally by the angle it has relative to the axis of the earth's orbit), in the top half.
  • Maps are usually labelled to indicate which direction on the map corresponds to a direction on the earth,
    • usually with a single arrow oriented to the map's representation of true north,
    • occasionally with a single arrow oriented to the map's representation of magnetic north, or two arrows oriented to true and magnetic north respectively,
    • occasionally with a compass rose, but if so, usually on a map with north at the top and usually with north decorated more prominently than any other compass point.
The notion that north should always be up and east at the right was established by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. The historian Daniel Boorstin suggests
Perhaps this was because the better-known places in his world were in the northern hemisphere, and on a flat map these were most convenient for study if they were in the upper right-hand corner.

Roles of east and west as inherently subsidiary directions

While the choice of north over south as prime direction reflects quite arbitrary historical factors, east and west are not nearly as natural alternatives as first glance might suggest. Their folk definitions are, respectively, "where the sun rises" and "where it sets". Except on the Equator, however, these definitions, taken together, would imply that
  • east and west would not be 180 degrees apart, but instead would differ from that by up to twice the degrees of latitude of the location in question, and
  • they would each move slightly from day to day and, in the temperate zones, markedly over the course of the year.
Reasonably accurate folk astronomy, such as is usually attributed to Stone Age peoples or later Celts, would arrive at east and west by noting the directions of rising and setting (preferably more than once each) and choosing as prime direction one of the two mutually opposite directions that lie halfway between those two. The true folk-astronomical definitions of east and west are "the directions, a right angle from the prime direction, that are closest to the rising and setting, respectively, of the sun (or moon).

See also

north in Tosk Albanian: Norden
north in Arabic: شمال
north in Azerbaijani: Şimal
north in Belarusian: Поўнач
north in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Поўнач
north in Bosnian: Sjever
north in Breton: Norzh
north in Bulgarian: Север
north in Catalan: Nord
north in Cebuano: Amihanan
north in Czech: Sever
north in Corsican: Nordu
north in Danish: Kompasretning#Nord
north in German: Norden
north in Estonian: Põhi
north in Modern Greek (1453-): Βορράς
north in Spanish: Norte
north in Esperanto: Nordo
north in Basque: Ipar
north in Persian: شمال
north in French: Nord
north in Friulian: Nord
north in Galician: Norte
north in Korean: 북쪽
north in Hindi: उत्तर
north in Croatian: Sjever
north in Indonesian: Utara
north in Icelandic: Norður
north in Italian: Nord
north in Hebrew: צפון
north in Swahili (macrolanguage): Kaskazini
north in Kurdish: Bakur
north in Lithuanian: Šiaurė
north in Lingala: Nola
north in Lombard: Nòrd
north in Hungarian: Észak
north in Marathi: उत्तर दिशा
north in Malay (macrolanguage): Utara
north in Erzya: Пелеве ёнкс
north in Dutch: Noord (windstreek)
north in Nepali: उत्तर
north in Japanese: 北
north in Norwegian: Nord
north in Norwegian Nynorsk: Nord
north in Narom: Nord
north in Occitan (post 1500): Nòrd
north in Polish: Północ
north in Portuguese: Norte
north in Romanian: Nord
north in Quechua: Chincha
north in Russian: Север
north in Simple English: North
north in Slovak: Sever (svetová strana)
north in Church Slavic: Сѣверъ
north in Slovenian: Sever
north in Serbian: Север
north in Serbo-Croatian: Sever
north in Finnish: Pohjoinen
north in Swedish: Norr
north in Tamil: வடக்கு
north in Telugu: ఉత్తరం
north in Thai: ทิศเหนือ
north in Vietnamese: Hướng Bắc
north in Turkish: Kuzey
north in Buginese: Manorang
north in Ukrainian: Північ
north in Venetian: Nord
north in Walloon: Bijhe (costé del Daegne)
north in Yiddish: צפון
north in Contenese: 北
north in Samogitian: Šiaurė
north in Chinese: 北

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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