This article refers to the cardinal direction; for other uses see West (disambiguation)
West (disambiguation)
West is one of the four cardinal directions in geography.West may also refer to:-Places or regions:* Western world* American Old West, also called the Old West or the Wild West, an era in history in the Western United States...


West is a noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

, adjective
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

, or adverb
An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs or any part of speech other than a noun . Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives , clauses, sentences, and other adverbs....

 indicating 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...

 or geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...


West is one of the four cardinal directions or compass
A compass is a navigational instrument that shows directions in a frame of reference that is stationary relative to the surface of the earth. The frame of reference defines the four cardinal directions – north, south, east, and west. Intermediate directions are also defined...

 points. It is the opposite of 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....

 and is perpendicular
In geometry, two lines or planes are considered perpendicular to each other if they form congruent adjacent angles . The term may be used as a noun or adjective...

 to 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....

 and 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....


By convention
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

, the left side of a 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....

 is west.

To go west using a compass for navigation
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...

, one needs to set a bearing
Bearing (navigation)
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...

 or azimuth of 270°.

West is the direction opposite that of the Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

's rotation on its axis, and is therefore the general direction towards which the 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...


During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 "the West" was often used to refer to the NATO camp as opposed to the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 and non-aligned nations
Non-Aligned Movement
The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of states considering themselves not aligned formally with or against any major power bloc. As of 2011, the movement had 120 members and 17 observer countries...

. The expression survives, with an increasingly ambiguous meaning.

Moving continuously west is following a circle of latitude
Circle of latitude
A circle of latitude, on the Earth, is an imaginary east-west circle connecting all locations that share a given latitude...

, which, except in the case of the 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....

, is not 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...


The word west is derived from the name of one of the four dwarves in Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

, Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri
Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri
In Norse mythology, Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri are four dwarves in the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning who each support one of the four cardinal points. Together, they uphold the heavenly dome, created from the skull of the jötunn Ymir...

, who each represented one of the directions of the world. cf Greek hesperus and Roman vesper.

Symbolic meanings

In Chinese Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, the West represents movement toward the Buddha or enlightenment (see Journey to the West
Journey to the West
Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. In English-speaking countries, the tale is also often known simply as Monkey. This was one title used for a popular, abridged translation by Arthur Waley...

). The ancient 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...

s believed that the West was the realm of the great goddess of water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, mist, and maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

. In Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, the West was considered to be the portal to the netherworld
Netherworld is often used as a synonym for Underworld. It may also refer to:*Netherworld , an 8-bit computer game from 1988*Netherworld , a fictional autonomous neighborhood of the city of Chicago in the DC Comics universe...

, and is the cardinal direction regarded in connection with death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

, though not always with a negative connotation. Ancient Egyptians also believed that the Goddess
A goddess is a female deity. In some cultures goddesses are associated with Earth, motherhood, love, and the household. In other cultures, goddesses also rule over war, death, and destruction as well as healing....

Amunet, Amaunet, or Amonet was a primordial goddess in Ancient Egyptian religion. She is a member of the Ogdoad and the consort of Amun. Her name, meaning "the female hidden one", was simply the feminine form of Amun's own name. Therefore, it is likely that she was never an independent deity, but...

 was a personification of the West. The Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

s believed that beyond the western sea off the edges of all maps lay the Otherworld
Otherworld, or the Celtic Otherworld, is a concept in Celtic mythology that refers to the home of the deities or spirits, or a realm of the dead.Otherworld may also refer to:In film and television:...

, or Afterlife.

In American literature
American literature
American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British...

 (e.g. in The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a novel by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. First published in1925, it is set on Long Island's North Shore and in New York City from spring to autumn of 1922....

) moving West has sometimes symbolized gaining freedom
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

, perhaps as an association with the settling of the Old West (see also Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny was the 19th century American belief that the United States was destined to expand across the continent. It was used by Democrat-Republicans in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico; the concept was denounced by Whigs, and fell into disuse after the mid-19th century.Advocates of...

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