Cardinal direction
Overview

The four cardinal directions or cardinal points are the directions of north
North
North is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.North is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the top side of a map is north....

, east
East
East is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.East is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of west and is perpendicular to north and south.By convention, the right side of a map is east....

, south
South
South is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.South is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the bottom side of a map is south....

, and west
West
West is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.West is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of east and is perpendicular to north and south.By convention, the left side of a map is west....

, commonly denoted by their initials: N, E, S, W. East and west are at right angle
Right angle
In geometry and trigonometry, a right angle is an angle that bisects the angle formed by two halves of a straight line. More precisely, if a ray is placed so that its endpoint is on a line and the adjacent angles are equal, then they are right angles...

s to north and south, with east being in the direction of rotation and west being directly opposite. Intermediate points between the four cardinal directions form the points of the compass
Boxing the compass
Boxing the compass is the action of naming all thirty-two points of the compass in clockwise order. Such names are formed by the initials of the cardinal directions and their intermediate ordinal directions, and are very handy to refer to a heading in a general or colloquial fashion, without...

. The intermediate (intercardinal, or ordinal) directions are north-east (NE), south-east (SE), south-west (SW), and north-west (NW).

On Earth, upright observers facing north will have south behind them, east on their right
Relative direction
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down. No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what...

, and west on their left.
Encyclopedia
The four cardinal directions or cardinal points are the directions of north
North
North is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.North is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the top side of a map is north....

, east
East
East is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.East is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of west and is perpendicular to north and south.By convention, the right side of a map is east....

, south
South
South is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.South is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the bottom side of a map is south....

, and west
West
West is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.West is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of east and is perpendicular to north and south.By convention, the left side of a map is west....

, commonly denoted by their initials: N, E, S, W. East and west are at right angle
Right angle
In geometry and trigonometry, a right angle is an angle that bisects the angle formed by two halves of a straight line. More precisely, if a ray is placed so that its endpoint is on a line and the adjacent angles are equal, then they are right angles...

s to north and south, with east being in the direction of rotation and west being directly opposite. Intermediate points between the four cardinal directions form the points of the compass
Boxing the compass
Boxing the compass is the action of naming all thirty-two points of the compass in clockwise order. Such names are formed by the initials of the cardinal directions and their intermediate ordinal directions, and are very handy to refer to a heading in a general or colloquial fashion, without...

. The intermediate (intercardinal, or ordinal) directions are north-east (NE), south-east (SE), south-west (SW), and north-west (NW).

On Earth, upright observers facing north will have south behind them, east on their right
Relative direction
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down. No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what...

, and west on their left. Most devices and methods for orientation therefore operate by finding north first, although any other direction is equally valid, if it can be reliably located. Several of these devices and methods are described below.

The Earth's sun

The position of the Sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

in the sky can be used for orientation if the general time of day is known. In the morning, the Sun rises
Sunrise
Sunrise is the instant at which the upper edge of the Sun appears above the horizon in the east. Sunrise should not be confused with dawn, which is the point at which the sky begins to lighten, some time before the sun itself appears, ending twilight...

roughly in the east (due east only on the equinoxes) and tracks upwards. In the evening it sets
Sunset
Sunset or sundown is the daily disappearance of the Sun below the horizon in the west as a result of Earth's rotation.The time of sunset is defined in astronomy as the moment the trailing edge of the Sun's disk disappears below the horizon in the west...

in the west, again roughly and only due east exactly on the equinoxes. In the middle of the day it is to the south for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

, who live north of the Tropic of Cancer, and the north for those in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

, who live south of the Tropic of Capricorn. This method does not work so well closer to the equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

(i.e. between the Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Cancer
The Tropic of Cancer, also referred to as the Northern tropic, is the circle of latitude on the Earth that marks the most northerly position at which the Sun may appear directly overhead at its zenith...

and the Tropic of Capricorn
Tropic of Capricorn
The Tropic of Capricorn, or Southern tropic, marks the most southerly latitude on the Earth at which the Sun can be directly overhead. This event occurs at the December solstice, when the southern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun to its maximum extent.Tropic of Capricorn is one of the five...

) since, in the northern hemisphere, the sun may be directly overhead or even to the north in summer. Conversely, at low latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

s in the southern hemisphere the sun may be to the south of the observer in summer. (See season
Season
A season is a division of the year, marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight.Seasons result from the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of revolution...

s and solstice
Solstice
A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year when the Sun's apparent position in the sky, as viewed from Earth, reaches its northernmost or southernmost extremes...

for more on this). In these locations, one needs first to determine whether the sun is moving from east to west through north or south by watching its movements—left to right means it is going through south while right to left means it is going through north; or one can watch the sun's shadows. If they move clockwise, the sun will be in the south at midday, and if they move anticlockwise, then the sun will be in the north at midday.

Therefore, a more accurate fix can be made if the time of year and approximate latitude are factored in. It should also be noted that, due to the Earth's axial tilt
Axial tilt
In astronomy, axial tilt is the angle between an object's rotational axis, and a line perpendicular to its orbital plane...

, no matter what your location, there are only two days each year when the sun rises precisely due east. These days are the equinox
Equinox
An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth's equator...

es. On all other days, depending on the time of year, the sun rises either north or south of true east (and sets north or south of true west). For all locations the sun is seen to rise north of east (and set north of west) from the March equinox to the September equinox, and rise south of east (and set south of west) from the September equinox to the March equinox.

It should also be noted that the amount that the sun appears to be either north or south depends on both the time of year and latitude of the observer. Knowing these will enable the observer to be more precise when determining the cardinal directions from the sun's position, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon.

Watch face

An analog watch
Analog watch
Analogue watch is an example of a retronym. It was coined to distinguish analogue watches, which had simply been called "watches", from newer digital watches; see watch and clock....

can be used to locate north and south. The Sun appears to move in the sky over a 24 hour period while the hour hand of a 12-hour clock face
Clock face
A clock face is the part of an analog clock that displays the time through the use of a fixed numbered dial or dials and moving hands. In its most basic form, recognized universally throughout the world, the dial is numbered 1–12 indicating the hours in a 12-hour cycle, and a short hour hand...

takes twelve hours to complete one rotation. In the northern hemisphere, if the watch is rotated so that the hour hand points toward the Sun, the point halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock will indicate south. For this method to work in the southern hemisphere, the 12 is pointed toward the Sun and the point halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock will indicate north. During daylight saving time
Daylight saving time
Daylight saving time —also summer time in several countries including in British English and European official terminology —is the practice of temporarily advancing clocks during the summertime so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less...

, the same method can be employed using 1 o'clock instead of 12.

There are relatively minor inaccuracies due to the difference between local time
Time zone
A time zone is a region on Earth that has a uniform standard time for legal, commercial, and social purposes. In order for the same clock time to always correspond to the same portion of the day as the Earth rotates , different places on the Earth need to have different clock times...

and zone time, and due to the equation of time
Equation of time
The equation of time is the difference between apparent solar time and mean solar time. At any given instant, this difference will be the same for every observer...

. The method functions less well as one gets closer to the equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

.

The photograph shows a specialized 24-hour watch designed for finding directions using the Sun in the northern hemisphere. With the watch set to indicate local time, the hour hand is pointed directly at the Sun. North is then indicated by the local midnight position.

Nighttime stars

Astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

provides a more reliable method for finding direction at night. The Earth's axis is currently (but not permanently) pointed, to within a fraction of 1 degree
Degree (angle)
A degree , usually denoted by ° , is a measurement of plane angle, representing 1⁄360 of a full rotation; one degree is equivalent to π/180 radians...

, toward the bright star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

Polaris
Polaris
Polaris |Alpha]] Ursae Minoris, commonly North Star or Pole Star, also Lodestar) is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor. It is very close to the north celestial pole, making it the current northern pole star....

. The exact direction of the axis changes over thousands of years due to the precession of the equinoxes. We call the end of the Earth's axis that points to Polaris the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

. The opposite end of the axis is named the South Pole
South Pole
The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole...

. Polaris is also known as the North Star, and is generically called a pole star
Pole star
The term "Pole Star" usually refers to Polaris, which is the current northern pole star, also known as the North Star.In general, however, a pole star is a visible star, especially a prominent one, that is approximately aligned with the Earth's axis of rotation; that is, a star whose apparent...

or lodestar
Lodestar
A lodestar or guiding star may be:*Polaris*any star used in celestial navigation*metaphorically, any guiding principle*Guiding Star...

. Polaris is only visible during fair weather
Weather
Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate...

at night
Night
Night or nighttime is the period of time when the sun is below the horizon. This occurs after dusk. The opposite of night is day...

to inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

.

Picking out a specific single star may leave one uncertain they've found the right one. As an aid to identifying Polaris, the asterism
Asterism (astronomy)
In astronomy, an asterism is a pattern of stars recognized on Earth's night sky. It may form part of an official constellation, or be composed of stars from more than one. Like constellations, asterisms are in most cases composed of stars which, while they are visible in the same general direction,...

"Big Dipper
Big Dipper
The Plough, also known as the Big Dipper or the Saptarishi , is an asterism of seven stars that has been recognized as a distinct grouping in many cultures from time immemorial...

" may be employed. The 2 corner stars of the "pan" (those opposite from the handle) point above the top of the "pan" to Polaris. This is illustrated at this example, the beginning of a tutorial that teaches how to find Polaris. To see the rest of the tutorial click the link at the bottom of the illustration.

From the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

, nightly observations of the sky directly above the vicinity of the true pole will reveal that the visible stars appear to be moving in a circular path. (It is actually the observer that is moving in the circular path.) This becomes completely obvious when a special case of long exposure photography
Long exposure photography
Long-exposure photography or time-exposure photography involves using a long-duration shutter speed to sharply capture the stationary elements of images while blurring, smearing, or obscuring the moving elements.-Technique:...

is employed to record the observations, by locking the shutter
Shutter (photography)
In photography, a shutter is a device that allows light to pass for a determined period of time, for the purpose of exposing photographic film or a light-sensitive electronic sensor to light to capture a permanent image of a scene...

open for most of the intensely dark
Darkness
Darkness, in contrast with brightness, is a relative absence of visible light. It is the appearance of black in a color space. When light is not present, rod and cone cells within the eye are not stimulated. This lack of stimulation means photoreceptor cells are unable to distinguish color...

part of a moonless night. The resulting photograph
Photograph
A photograph is an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic imager such as a CCD or a CMOS chip. Most photographs are created using a camera, which uses a lens to focus the scene's visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction of...

reveals a multitude of concentric
Concentric
Concentric objects share the same center, axis or origin with one inside the other. Circles, tubes, cylindrical shafts, disks, and spheres may be concentric to one another...

arcs
Arc (geometry)
In geometry, an arc is a closed segment of a differentiable curve in the two-dimensional plane; for example, a circular arc is a segment of the circumference of a circle...

(portions of perfect circles) from which the exact center
Centre (geometry)
In geometry, the centre of an object is a point in some sense in the middle of the object. If geometry is regarded as the study of isometry groups then the centre is a fixed point of the isometries.-Circles:...

can be readily derived. The common center is exactly aligned with the true (as opposed to the magnetic) pole. (This also is true of the northern hemisphere, and can be used to verify one has correctly identified Polaris, which will not appear to move.)
A published photograph exposed for nearly 8 hours demonstrates this effect.

At the very end of the 19th century, to avoid the need to wait for fair weather at night to precisely verify one's alignment with true north
True north
True north is the direction along the earth's surface towards the geographic North Pole.True geodetic north usually differs from magnetic north , and from grid north...

, the gyrocompass
Gyrocompass
A gyrocompass­ is a type of non-magnetic compass which bases on a fast-spinning disc and rotation of our planet to automatically find geographical direction...

was developed for ship use in scenarios where the magnetic compass simply wasn't good enough. It has the further advantages of immunity to interference by stray magnetic fields, and not depending on Earth's magnetic field at all. Its major disadvantage is that it depends on technology that many individuals might find too expensive to justify outside the context of a large commercial or military operation. It also requires a continuous power supply for its motors, and that it be allowed to sit in one location for a period of time while it properly aligns itself.

Near the end of the 20th century the advent of satellite-based Global Positioning System
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

s (GPS) provided yet another means for any individual to determine true north accurately. While GPS Receivers (GPSRs) function best with a clear view of the entire sky, they function day or night, and in all but the most severe weather. The government agencies responsible for the satellites continuously monitor and adjust them to maintain their accurate alignment with the Earth. There are consumer versions of the receivers that are attractively priced. Since there are no periodic access fees, or other licensing charges, they have become widely used. GPSR functionality is becoming more commonly added to other consumer devices such as mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

s. Handheld GPSRs have modest power requirements, can be shut down as needed, and recalibrate
Calibration
Calibration is a comparison between measurements – one of known magnitude or correctness made or set with one device and another measurement made in as similar a way as possible with a second device....

within a couple of minutes of being restarted. In contrast with the gyrocompass which is most accurate when stationary, the GPS receiver must be moving, typically at more than 0.1 mph (0.2 km/h), to correctly display compass directions. Within these limitations GPSRs are considered both accurate and reliable. The GPSR has thus become the fastest and most convenient way to obtain a verifiable alignment with the cardinal directions.

The directional names are also routinely and very conveniently associated with the degrees
Degree (angle)
A degree , usually denoted by ° , is a measurement of plane angle, representing 1⁄360 of a full rotation; one degree is equivalent to π/180 radians...

of rotation in the unit circle
Unit circle
In mathematics, a unit circle is a circle with a radius of one. Frequently, especially in trigonometry, "the" unit circle is the circle of radius one centered at the origin in the Cartesian coordinate system in the Euclidean plane...

, a necessary step for navigational calculations (derived from trigonometry
Trigonometry
Trigonometry is a branch of mathematics that studies triangles and the relationships between their sides and the angles between these sides. Trigonometry defines the trigonometric functions, which describe those relationships and have applicability to cyclical phenomena, such as waves...

) and/or for use with Global Positioning Satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

(GPS
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

A radio receiver converts signals from a radio antenna to a usable form. It uses electronic filters to separate a wanted radio frequency signal from all other signals, the electronic amplifier increases the level suitable for further processing, and finally recovers the desired information through...

. The four cardinal directions correspond to the following degrees of a compass:
• North (N): 0° = 360°
• East (E): 90°
• South (S): 180°
• West (W): 270°

An ordinal, or intercardinal, or intermediate, direction is one of the four intermediate compass directions located halfway between the cardinal directions.
• Northeast (NE), 45°, halfway between north and east, is the opposite of southwest.
• Southeast (SE), 135°, halfway between south and east, is the opposite of northwest.
• Southwest (SW), 225°, halfway between south and west, is the opposite of northeast.
• Northwest (NW), 315°, halfway between north and west, is the opposite of southeast.

These 8 words have been further compounded, resulting in a total of 16 named (and numbered) points evenly spaced around the compass. Some languages do not use compound words to name the points, instead assigning unique words, colors, and/or associations with phenomena of the natural world.

Usefulness of cardinal points

With the cardinal points thus accurately defined, by convention cartographers
History of cartography
Cartography , or mapmaking, has been an integral part of the human story for a long time, possibly up to 8,000 years...

draw standard map
Map
A map is a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes....

s with north (N) at the top
Relative direction
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down. No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what...

, and east (E) at the right
Relative direction
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down. No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what...

. In turn, maps provide a systematic means to record where places are, and cardinal directions are the foundation of a structure for telling someone how to find those places.

North does not have to be at the top. Many portable GPS
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

computer
Computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

s can be set to display
Display device
A display device is an output device for presentation of information in visual or tactile form...

maps either conventionally (N always up, E always right) or with the current instantaneous
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

direction
Direction (geometry, geography)
Direction is the information contained in the relative position of one point with respect to another point without the distance information. Directions may be either relative to some indicated reference , or absolute according to some previously agreed upon frame of reference Direction is the...

of travel
Travel
Travel is the movement of people or objects between relatively distant geographical locations. 'Travel' can also include relatively short stays between successive movements.-Etymology:...

Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

, always up
Relative direction
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down. No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what...

(and whatever direction is +90° from that to the right).

The direction of travel required to reach the intended destination is called the bearing
In marine navigation, a bearing is the direction one object is from another object, usually, the direction of an object from one's own vessel. In aircraft navigation, a bearing is the actual compass direction of the forward course of the aircraft...

. Since the real world
World
World is a common name for the whole of human civilization, specifically human experience, history, or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth....

In navigation, a vehicle's course is the angle that the intended path of the vehicle makes with a fixed reference object . Typically course is measured in degrees from 0° clockwise to 360° in compass convention . Course is customarily expressed in three digits, using preliminary zeros if needed,...

accordingly. Upon moving forward
Relative direction
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down. No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what...

, the bearing will change so that it always points at the destination, thereby giving clues as to which way to turn. When travelling, it is often easier to work out where the next turn is, and whether to turn left or right, when the direction of travel is always up.

Beyond geography

Children are sometimes taught the order of these directions (clockwise, from North) by using a mnemonic
Mnemonic
A mnemonic , or mnemonic device, is any learning technique that aids memory. To improve long term memory, mnemonic systems are used to make memorization easier. Commonly encountered mnemonics are often verbal, such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something,...

. Some examples are: "Never Eat Shredded Wheat
Shredded Wheat
Shredded wheat is a breakfast cereal made from whole wheat. As of January 2010, it was available in three sizes: bite sized , miniature , and full size, which may be broken into small pieces before milk is added .Both sizes are available in a...

", "Never Eat Soggy Waffles", and more.

In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, cardinal directions or cardinal points are the six principal directions or points along the x-, y- and z-axis of three-dimensional space
Three-dimensional space
Three-dimensional space is a geometric 3-parameters model of the physical universe in which we live. These three dimensions are commonly called length, width, and depth , although any three directions can be chosen, provided that they do not lie in the same plane.In physics and mathematics, a...

.

In the real world there are six cardinal directions not involved with geography which are north
North
North is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.North is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the top side of a map is north....

, south
South
South is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.South is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to east and west.By convention, the bottom side of a map is south....

, east
East
East is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.East is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of west and is perpendicular to north and south.By convention, the right side of a map is east....

, west
West
West is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.West is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of east and is perpendicular to north and south.By convention, the left side of a map is west....

, up
Relative direction
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down. No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what...

and down
Relative direction
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down. No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what...

. In this context, up and down relate to elevation
Elevation
The elevation of a geographic location is its height above a fixed reference point, most commonly a reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface ....

, altitude
Altitude
Altitude or height is defined based on the context in which it is used . As a general definition, altitude is a distance measurement, usually in the vertical or "up" direction, between a reference datum and a point or object. The reference datum also often varies according to the context...

, or possibly depth (if water is involved). The topographic map
Topographic map
A topographic map is a type of map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines in modern mapping, but historically using a variety of methods. Traditional definitions require a topographic map to show both natural and man-made features...

is a special case of cartography in which the elevation is indicated on the map, typically via contour line
Contour line
A contour line of a function of two variables is a curve along which the function has a constant value. In cartography, a contour line joins points of equal elevation above a given level, such as mean sea level...

s.

In astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, cardinal points of the disk of an astronomical body may be four points defined by the direction in which the celestial pole
Celestial pole
The north and south celestial poles are the two imaginary points in the sky where the Earth's axis of rotation, indefinitely extended, intersects the imaginary rotating sphere of stars called the celestial sphere...

s are located, as seen from the center of the disk.

A line (here it is a great circle
Great circle
A great circle, also known as a Riemannian circle, of a sphere is the intersection of the sphere and a plane which passes through the center point of the sphere, as opposed to a general circle of a sphere where the plane is not required to pass through the center...

on the celestial sphere
Celestial sphere
In astronomy and navigation, the celestial sphere is an imaginary sphere of arbitrarily large radius, concentric with the Earth and rotating upon the same axis. All objects in the sky can be thought of as projected upon the celestial sphere. Projected upward from Earth's equator and poles are the...

) drawn from the center of the disk to the North celestial pole will intersect the body's limb at the North point. Similarly, a line from the center to the South celestial pole will define the South point by its intersection with the limb. The points at right angles to the North and South points are the East and West points. The North point will then be the point on the limb that is closest to the North celestial pole.

Germanic origin of names

During the Migration Period
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

, the Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

' names for the cardinal directions entered the Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

, where they replaced the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

names borealis (or septentrionalis) with north, australis (or meridionalis) with south, occidentalis with west and orientalis with east. It is possible that some northern people used the Germanic names for the intermediate directions. Medieval Scandinavian orientation would thus have involved a 45 degree rotation of cardinal directions.
• north (Proto-Germanic *norþ-) from the proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European may refer to:*Proto-Indo-European language, the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages.*Proto-Indo-Europeans, the hypothetical speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language....

*nórto-s 'submerged' from the root *ner- 'left, below, to the left of the rising sun' whence comes the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

name Nereus
Nereus
In Greek mythology, Nereus was the eldest son of Pontus and Gaia , a Titan who with Doris fathered the Nereids, with whom Nereus lived in the Aegean Sea. In the Iliad the Old Man of the Sea is the father of Nereids, though Nereus is not directly named...

.
• east (*aus-t-) from the word for dawn
Dawn
Dawn is the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise. It is recognized by the presence of weak sunlight, while the sun itself is still below the horizon...

. The proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European may refer to:*Proto-Indo-European language, the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages.*Proto-Indo-Europeans, the hypothetical speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language....

form is *austo-s from the root is *aues- 'shine (red)'. See Ēostre
Eostre
Old English Ēostre and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath , has given its name to the festival of Easter...

.
• south (*sunþ-), derived from proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European may refer to:*Proto-Indo-European language, the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages.*Proto-Indo-Europeans, the hypothetical speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language....

*sú-n-to-s from the root *seu- 'seethe, boil'. Cognate with this root is the word Sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, thus "the region of the Sun."
• west (*wes-t-) from a word for "evening." The proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European may refer to:*Proto-Indo-European language, the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages.*Proto-Indo-Europeans, the hypothetical speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language....

form is *uestos from the root *ues- 'shine (red)', itself a form of *aues-. Cognate with the root are the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

words vesper
Vesper
Vesper means evening in Classical Latin. It can refer to:*Hesperus, Latinized form of Hesperos, a Greek mythological figure Places:*Vesper, Wisconsin, a village*Vesper Peak, a mountain in Washington State...

and Vesta
Vesta
-Astronomy:* 4 Vesta, second largest asteroid in the solar system, also a proto-planet, named after the Roman deity* Vesta family, group of asteroids that includes 4 Vesta- Places :* Monte Vesta, Lombardy, Italy* Temple of Vesta, Rome, Italy...

and the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

Hestia
Hestia
In Greek mythology Hestia , first daughter of Cronus and Rhea , is the virgin goddess of the hearth, architecture, and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family. She received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household. In the public domain, the hearth of the prytaneum...

, Hesperus
Hesperus
In Greek mythology, Hesperus is the Evening Star, the planet Venus in the evening. He is the son of the dawn goddess Eos and is the brother of Eosphorus , the Morning Star. Hesperus' Roman equivalent is Vesper...

and Hesperides
Hesperides
In Greek mythology, the Hesperides are nymphs who tend a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world, located near the Atlas mountains in North Africa at the edge of the encircling Oceanus, the world-ocean....

.

Cardinal directions in world cultures

Many cultures not descended from European traditions use cardinal directions, but have a number other than four. Typically, a “center” direction is added, for a total of five. Rather than the Western use of direction letters, properties such as color
Color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

s are often associated with the various cardinal directions—these are typically the natural colors
Natural Color System
The Natural Color System is a proprietary perceptual color model published by the Scandinavian Colour Institute of Stockholm, Sweden. It is based on the color opponency description of color vision, first proposed by German physiologist Ewald Hering...

of human perception rather than optical primary color
Primary color
Primary colors are sets of colors that can be combined to make a useful range of colors. For human applications, three primary colors are usually used, since human color vision is trichromatic....

s. Some examples are shown here; In many regions of the world, prevalent winds change direction seasonally, and consequently many cultures associate specific named wind
Wind
Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

s with cardinal and ordinal directions. The classical Greeks
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

personified these winds as Anemoi
Anemoi
In Greek mythology, the Anemoi were Greek wind gods who were each ascribed a cardinal direction from which their respective winds came , and were each associated with various seasons and weather conditions...

. The article on boxing the compass
Boxing the compass
Boxing the compass is the action of naming all thirty-two points of the compass in clockwise order. Such names are formed by the initials of the cardinal directions and their intermediate ordinal directions, and are very handy to refer to a heading in a general or colloquial fashion, without...

contains a more recent list of directional winds from the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

.

Far East

Asia N E S W C Source
China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

Kalmyks
Kalmyk people
Kalmyk people is the name given to the Oirats, western Mongols in Russia, whose descendants migrated from Dzhungaria in 1607. Today they form a majority in the autonomous Republic of Kalmykia on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. Kalmykia is Europe's only Buddhist government...

Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

Dynastic Chinese
Dynasties in Chinese history
The following is a chronology of the dynasties in Chinese history.Chinese history is not as neat as is often described and it was rare for one dynasty to change peacefully into the next. Dynasties were often established before the overthrow of an existing regime, or continued for a time after they...

culture and some other Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n cultures view the center as a fifth principal direction hence the English translated term "Five Cardinal Points". Where it is different than the west, is that the term is used as a foundation for I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

, the Wu Xing and the five Naked-eye planet
Naked-eye planet
In antiquity the classical planets were the non-fixed objects visible in the sky, known to various ancient cultures. The classical planets were therefore the Sun and Moon and the five non-earth planets of our solar system closest to the sun ; all easily visible without a telescope. They are...

s.

Chinese astronomy
Astronomy in China has a very long history, with historians considering that "they [the Chinese] were the most persistent and accurate observers of celestial phenomena anywhere in the world before the Arabs."...

, the zodiacal belt is divided into the four constellation groups
Four Symbols (Chinese constellation)
The Four Symbols are four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations. They are:*Azure Dragon of the East *Vermilion Bird of the South *White Tiger of the West *Black Tortoise of the North...

corresponding to the four cardinal directions.

Each direction is often identified with a color, and (at least in China) with a mythological creature of that color
Four Symbols (Chinese constellation)
The Four Symbols are four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations. They are:*Azure Dragon of the East *Vermilion Bird of the South *White Tiger of the West *Black Tortoise of the North...

. Geographical or ethnic terms may contain the name of the color instead of the name of the corresponding direction. These traditions were also carried west by the westward migration of the Turkic peoples
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

.

East: Green
Green
Green is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 520–570 nanometres. In the subtractive color system, it is not a primary color, but is created out of a mixture of yellow and blue, or yellow and cyan; it is considered...

(青 "qīng" corresponds to green); Spring; Wood
Wood (classical element)
Tree , traditionally translated as Wood, is the growing of the matter, or the matter's growing stage. Tree is the first phase of Wu Xing. Tree is yang in character...

Qingdao
Qingdao
' also known in the West by its postal map spelling Tsingtao, is a major city with a population of over 8.715 million in eastern Shandong province, Eastern China. Its built up area, made of 7 urban districts plus Jimo city, is home to about 4,346,000 inhabitants in 2010.It borders Yantai to the...

(Tsingtao) "Green Island": a city on the east coast of China

South: Red
Red
Red is any of a number of similar colors evoked by light consisting predominantly of the longest wavelengths of light discernible by the human eye, in the wavelength range of roughly 630–740 nm. Longer wavelengths than this are called infrared , and cannot be seen by the naked eye...

; Summer; Fire
Fire (classical element)
Fire has been an important part of all cultures and religions from pre-history to modern day and was vital to the development of civilization. It has been regarded in many different contexts throughout history, but especially as a metaphysical constant of the world.-Greek and Roman tradition:Fire...

Red River (Asia): south of China

West: White
White
White is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light that stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in nearly equal amounts and with high brightness compared to the surroundings. A white visual stimulation will be void of hue and grayness.White light can be...

; Autumn; Metal
Metal (classical element)
Metal , is the decline of the matter, or the matter's decline stage. Metal is the fourth phase of Wu Xing. Metal is yin in character, its motion is inwards and its energy is contracting. It is associated with the Autumn, the west, old age, the planet Venus, the color white, dry weather, and the...

White Sheep Turkmen
Ak Koyunlu
The Aq Qoyunlu or Ak Koyunlu, also called the White Sheep Turkomans , was an Sunni Oghuz Turkic tribal federation that ruled parts of present-day Eastern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, northern Iraq, and Iran from 1378 to 1508.-History:According to chronicles from the Byzantine Empire, the Aq Qoyunlu...

Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

(literally "White Russia"), according to one of the theories is the name given to the Western Rus by the Mongols

North: Black
Black
Black is the color of objects that do not emit or reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum; they absorb all such frequencies of light...

; Winter; Water
Water (classical element)
Water is one of the elements in ancient Greek philosophy, in the Asian Indian system Panchamahabhuta, and in the Chinese cosmological and physiological system Wu Xing...

Heilongjiang
Heilongjiang
For the river known in Mandarin as Heilong Jiang, see Amur River' is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the northeastern part of the country. "Heilongjiang" literally means Black Dragon River, which is the Chinese name for the Amur. The one-character abbreviation is 黑...

"Black Dragon River" province in Northeast China
Northeast China
Northeast China, historically known in English as Manchuria, is a geographical region of China, consisting of the three provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. The region is sometimes called the Three Northeast Provinces...

, also the Amur River
Kara-Khitan Khanate
Kara-Khitan Khanate
The Kara-Khitan Khanate, or Western Liao was a Khitan empire in Central Asia. The dynasty was founded by Yelü Dashi, who led the remnants of the Liao Dynasty to Central Asia after fleeing from the Jurchen conquest of their homeland in North and Northeast of modern day China...

"Black Khitans" who originated in Northern China

Center: Yellow
Yellow
Yellow is the color evoked by light that stimulates both the L and M cone cells of the retina about equally, with no significant stimulation of the S cone cells. Light with a wavelength of 570–590 nm is yellow, as is light with a suitable mixture of red and green...

; Earth
Earth (classical element)
Earth, home and origin of humanity, has often been worshipped in its own right with its own unique spiritual tradition.-European tradition:Earth is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. It was commonly associated with qualities of heaviness, matter and the...

Huangshan
Huangshan
Huangshan may refer to:*Huangshan , a scenic mountain range and UNESCO World Heritage Site*Huangshan City, a prefecture-level city centered on the Huangshan Mountains...

"Yellow Mountain" in central China
Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

: "Central Army" of the Mongols

Americas

America N E S W C Source
Apache
Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

Cherokee
Cherokee
The Cherokee are a Native American people historically settled in the Southeastern United States . Linguistically, they are part of the Iroquoian language family...

Lakota
Mayan
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

Navajo
Navajo people
The Navajo of the Southwestern United States are the largest single federally recognized tribe of the United States of America. The Navajo Nation has 300,048 enrolled tribal members. The Navajo Nation constitutes an independent governmental body which manages the Navajo Indian reservation in the...

Pueblo
Pueblo
Pueblo is a term used to describe modern communities of Native Americans in the Southwestern United States of America. The first Spanish explorers of the Southwest used this term to describe the communities housed in apartment-like structures built of stone, adobe mud, and other local material...

Sioux
Sioux
The Sioux are Native American and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many language dialects...

Tarascan

In Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

beliefs include four cardinal directions and a center. Each direction was associated with a color, which varied between groups but which generally corresponded to the hues of corn (green, black, red, white, and yellow). There seems to be no “preferred” way of assigning these colors; as shown in the table, great variety in color symbolism occurs even among cultures that are close neighbors geographically.

Unique (non-compound) names of ordinal directions

In some language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

s, such as Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

, Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

and Breton
Breton language
Breton is a Celtic language spoken in Brittany , France. Breton is a Brythonic language, descended from the Celtic British language brought from Great Britain to Armorica by migrating Britons during the Early Middle Ages. Like the other Brythonic languages, Welsh and Cornish, it is classified as...

, the ordinal directions have names that are not compounds of the names of the cardinal directions (as, for instance, northeast is compounded from north and east). In Finnish those are koillinen (northeast), kaakko (southeast), lounas (southwest), and luode (northwest). Compare with the non-compound names used for the numbers 11–19 in English (eleven, rather than *ten-one) and special names for one and a half and two and a half in Hindi. In Japanese, there is the interesting situation that native Japanese words (yamato kotoba
Yamato kotoba
are native Japanese words, meaning those words in Japanese that have been inherited from Old Japanese, rather than being borrowed at some stage. They are also known as...

, kun readings of kanji) are used for the cardinal directions (such as minami for 南, south), but borrowed Chinese words (on readings of kanji) are used for ordinal directions (such as nan-tō for 南東, southeast).

Order of directions

While the directions can be listed in any order, most formally in clockwise or counterclockwise order, starting from some point (such as NESW, or, following the sun from daybreak in the northern hemisphere, ESWN), different languages conventionally use different orders, often using pairs of opposite directions. In English, the conventional order of the directions is "north, south, east, and west" (NSEW = N/S + E/W). In Japanese, most common is EWSN (東西南北 = E/W + S/N), and east-west (東西) is idiomatic for “everywhere, in all parts”; note that Japan is located at the extreme east of Eurasia.

Non-compass directional systems

Use of the compass directions is common and deeply embedded in European culture
Culture of Europe
The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of North as opposed to South; West as opposed to East; Orthodoxism as opposed to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism as opposed to Secularism; many have claimed to identify cultural...

, and also in Chinese culture
Culture of China
Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest and most complex. The area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces...

(see South Pointing Chariot
South Pointing Chariot
The south-pointing chariot was an ancient Chinese two-wheeled vehicle that carried a movable pointer to indicate the south, no matter how the chariot turned. Usually, the pointer took the form of a doll or figure with an outstretched arm...

). Some other cultures make greater use of other referents, such as towards the sea or towards the mountains (Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

), or upstream and downstream (most notably in ancient Egypt
Upper and Lower Egypt
Ancient Egypt was divided into two regions, namely Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. To the north was Lower Egypt where the Nile stretched out with its several branches to form the Nile Delta. To the south was Upper Egypt, stretching to Syene. The two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were united c....

, also in the Yurok
Yurok language
Yurok is a moribund Algic language. It is the traditional language of the Yurok tribe of Del Norte County and Humboldt County on the far North Coast of California, U.S., most of whom now speak English...

and Karuk
Karuk
Karuk is an indigenous people of California in the United States.The tribal headquarters, located off State Route 96, is in the town of Happy Camp, California. Currently the tribe has three tribal board meeting places, in Yreka, Happy Camp, and Orleans...

languages). Lengo (Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands) has four non-compass directions: landward, seaward, upcoast, and downcoast.

• Azimuth
• Boxing the compass
Boxing the compass
Boxing the compass is the action of naming all thirty-two points of the compass in clockwise order. Such names are formed by the initials of the cardinal directions and their intermediate ordinal directions, and are very handy to refer to a heading in a general or colloquial fashion, without...

for all thirty-two English-named internationally-used principal points of the compass.
• Elevation
Elevation
The elevation of a geographic location is its height above a fixed reference point, most commonly a reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface ....

– the mapping information ignored by the cardinal point system
• Geocaching
Geocaching
Geocaching is an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", anywhere in the world....

– an international hobby
• Geographic Information System (GIS)
Geographic Information System
A geographic information system, geographical information science, or geospatial information studies is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographically referenced data...

• Latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

and Longitude
Longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....

• List of cartographers – about famous cartographers through history
• List of international common standards
• Magnetic deviation
Magnetic deviation
Magnetic deviation is the error induced in a compass by local magnetic fields, which must be allowed for, along with magnetic declination, if accurate bearings are to be calculated....

– to understand why a compass does not align perfectly with the Earth's north and south poles.
• Orienteering
Orienteering
Orienteering is a family of sports that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they...

– to learn about an internationally popular hobby and sport that depends on the above knowledge for success.
• Uses of trigonometry
Uses of trigonometry
Amongst the lay public of non-mathematicians and non-scientists, trigonometry is known chiefly for its application to measurement problems, yet is also often used in ways that are far more subtle, such as its place in the theory of music; still other uses are more technical, such as in number theory...