Where are north south west and east

Compass direction

The most important points of the compass - this picture is also called "wind rose". For example, N stands for north, NW for northwest, and NE for northeast.
With a compass you can see where which direction is. Here the needle, with the red tip, points roughly to the W for west.

North, south, east and west are points of the compass. They are called that because they have to do with the "path" of the sun in the sky. Even our ancestors recognized in ancient times that the sun always rises in the east in the morning, is in the south at noon and sets in the west in the evening.

This is because the earth is a sphere and revolves around itself once a day. We humans rotate with the earth. That is why it looks to us as if the sun is moving around us. In the southern hemisphere, the sun at noon is not seen in the south, but in the north. This is because the sun is then more or less above the equator, shifted a little depending on the season. Whether the sun is in the north or south at noon also depends on where the person is who is watching the sun.

In a clockwise direction, the cardinal points are north, east, south and west. There are many memorable sayings that always have to do with the beginning of the word N O S W. The best known are: "Never wash without soap" or "Never hike without boots".

Why do you need cardinal points?

The direction of the compass can be used to indicate a direction on earth. If you want to memorize a route in the city, you orientate yourself on street names or conspicuous buildings such as churches. But that is not possible in the great outdoors or on the open sea. That's why you need the cardinal points here.

For example, if you want to drive from Berlin to Cologne, you always have to go west, i.e. towards sunset. If you want to go from Hamburg to Munich, you have to go south, to where the sun is at noon. You can also specify a direction more precisely: For example, if you go in a direction that is exactly between north and east, that is called northeast.

How can you determine the direction of the compass?

When the sun is shining, all you need is a watch, and one with hands. You can turn it so that the small (hour) hand points to the sun. Then the south is always exactly between the sun and the 12th

An example: in the morning at 9 o'clock the sun is roughly in the southeast. If you turn the clock so that the hour hand together with the 9 points to the sun, the 12 points to the southwest, and south lies exactly in between, i.e. between 10 and 11. In summer time you have to use the 1 instead of the 12 because the Lunchtime is then shifted by an hour. If you now look to the south, there is east on the left, west on the right and north in the back.

It's even easier with a compass, even when the sky is overcast or at night. It has a small magnetic pointer that always points north. This is because the earth contains a lot of iron and therefore acts like a giant magnet itself. In addition, most compasses not only show the cardinal points, but also have a movable wreath with degrees, with which you can determine the direction much more precisely.

A map is also helpful. Our maps today are usually "north", that is, north is always at the top. Therefore you have to align it with a compass or the position of the sun so that the north on the map really points to the north.

What else is there between north, east, south and west?

Sometimes you need the direction even more precisely, for example with the weather report or while sailing. That is why there are still names for what lies between the four cardinal points. This is best seen in an example. The same applies to the whole wind rose:

Right in the middle between north and east is northeast, abbreviated to NO. So between east and south lies southeast, abbreviated to SO. Between the south and west lies the southwest, abbreviated to SW. Between west and north lies northwest, abbreviated NW. This is marked on most of the wind roses. The word parts north and south always go first.

But it is even more precise: Between the north and northeast lies the north-northeast, abbreviated NNE. East-northeast, abbreviated ONO, lies between northeast and east. So you can work around the wind rose.

What else are cardinal points used for?

You can often hear the directions of the compass in the weather report: if the wind blows from the west, for example, it brings moist air from the Atlantic or therefore often rain. If it blows from the south, it will be warm, from the north it will be rather cool.

In everyday life, however, the cardinal points are not only used for one direction, but also for an area. The north of Germany is therefore called Northern Germany. When you think of the cardinal points, you usually think of something specific: When you think of the north, it means cold, because when you travel north from Europe you come to the cold Arctic. On the contrary, the south stands for warmth, the east for the light, namely for the sunrise, and the west for the darkness.

With “western” and the west one also means Europe and North America. This western world was formerly called the Occident because the sun sets in the west. When you think of “east” you think of Russia, Asia or the Middle East. The latter region, from Arabia to Iran, is also called the Orient. China and Japan, on the other hand, are in the Far East.


There is also an article on “Cardinal Direction” for beginners on MiniKlexikon.de and other search results from Blinde Kuh and Ask Finn.

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