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Sitting on Top of the World[edit]

removed the following because there is no "top" to the world; we only feel North is "up" because of maps... circular argument.

because the North Pole is at the top of the world, as far north as you can get

I wrote the following for the article, but the second 'graph feels too conjectural to include.

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 direction corresponding to its own hemisphere is, prior to world-wide communication, anything but an arbitrary one. On the contrary, it is of interest that Chinese culture ever considered south as the proper top end for maps.
As a speculative conjecture, it may be that this reflects the persistent threat from the tough nomadic peoples to the north of China, against whom the Great Wall was built, staffed, and maintained: the idea of the north being fundamental to the nature of things may have been unconsciously too uncomfortable, or consciously deemed a threat to public confidence in Chinese independence or hegemony. (If so, this raises the question of the role of these threats in forming the concepts of China as a Middle Kingdom closer to Heaven than any other, and of the mandate of Heaven.

If anyone has heard this theory anywhere else, i'd be pleased to hear about it. --Jerzy 01:03, 2003 Oct 24 (UTC)


Is the difference between true and magnetic north's not variation?

Ifanner (talk) 20:43, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Previous Edit[edit]

(for convenience of reference, here is the state of the article as of 2003 October 22, Wed. midday UTC:)

eo:Nordo ja:北 nl:Noord (windstreek)

North is one of the primary directions of the compass. It is the distance to the left of a person facing east. North is traditionally at the top of modern western maps. The North Pole is the northernmost point on the planet. Magnetic North is not quite the same place as the actual North Pole but it is close.

See also: "The North" (that term is often used to refer to the wealthy & powerful "North" as opposed to the poorer "South")

--Jerzy 19:56, 2003 Oct 22 (UTC)

2003-October Major Rewrite[edit]

I'm in the process of an edit that will pretty much obliterate the former main paragraph, but to say that obscures its value to me as a guide to what to include and some angles of approach. Thank you to the previous editors.

I don't assume i've gotten it all well stated yet, and i solicit criticism -- especially when i've chosen a way of stating something that makes it sound obviously false to you. --Jerzy 19:56, 2003 Oct 22 (UTC)


_ _ I've removed

...and perhaps to the Greek word nerteros, meaning "lower, nether, or infernal." North would be considered lower as it is to the left when one faces the rising sun

as implausible (in the absence of supporting refs) in light of Greek and Germanic languages being on separate branches with relatively little contact, and of a conflicting (tho similar) well-sourced account.
_ _ IMO it is probably either orig res or a garbled recollection of some statement like "the same PIE root can be seen in neteros".
_ _ My source is the Amer Her Dict, including the PIE vocabulary section at the end of most of the full-size editions.
--Jerzy·t 16:49, 2005 July 27 (UTC)

possible Etymology[edit]

I aplogise if this is the wrong place to put this, but I feel the focus on Left in the etymology of North is wrong, as it is based on an East-looking (sunrise) mindset. I agree with North from IE 'ner' = "under" and have found admittedly only one source to back this up, it also contains references to words which apparently share the same root and contain or explicitly mean left, however these are not north european.
My understanding of the root of North is based on sun position and assumes the dominance of the sun in early peoples lives and therefore perceived orientation. As your shadow is cast behind (and below) you in a roughly northerly direction at any time and due-north at noon and bearing in mind South comes form OE 'suth' = "sun-ward", I believe (and in all fairness I can't put it more strongly than that currently) that the meaning of North comes more from 'under' (when compared with the sun). I also believe this ties in with the early Scandinavian concept of the world they lived in, sharing a common orientation with the Chinese.
If I can come up with something more concrete I'll post it here.
A.Copland 02:07, 1 August 2005 (UTC)

This page is the right place. IMO it makes a lot of difference what the one source is.
It would be helpful to name the source, helping facilite the enlistment of more eyes to try out avenues to finding more and/or more credible sources.
Jerzy·t 07:16, 2005 August 1 (UTC)
My source mentioned above was "ORIGINS, a short etymological dictionary of modern english" by Eric Partridge, 1978.
North as below in "ORIGINS" is sourced from, J.B. Hofmann(Etymologisches Worterbuch des Griechischen, 1950). I am not very good at german so going to the source is not an option for me. I have as yet, no further evidence.
A.Copland 02:06, 30 August 2005 (UTC)

rephrasing disambig[edit]

The previous disambiguation notice phrasing appeared too restrictive in my view. This article is not so long yet, that for instance metaphorical uses of the direction North wouldn't be best at home in this article. -- Cimon avaro; on a pogostick. 21:17, 11 July 2006 (UTC)


This article contains the word 'boreocentrism' but I was unable to find a dictionary definition of it in the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, the Merriam Webster, or Google. Although I understand its meaning because of its Greek root and my knowledge of Greek, I think that we should replace/fix this word to help people who don't know Greek understand what is being said. NerdyNSK 18:36, 31 December 2006 (UTC)


I find the use of this term confusing in the definition of "magnetic north" in the definitions section. Most people don't know what it means and I don't think it has a place in a useful definition of the term "magnetic north." If there's any explanation in the link that accompanies it, I couldn't find it on a cursory skimming. Maybe just remove everything in the parentheses? Erickroh 16:10, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

It was so bad that i agree, in spite of my having written it. I took another shot at it.
--Jerzyt 08:00, 1 February 2008 (UTC)

Looking North?[edit]

As stated in the article, north is the direction that would be to one's right if you were standing on the equator and facing the rising sun.

This is incorrect. If one were facing the rising sun, north would be to one's left.

However, if one were facing the setting sun, then north would be to one's right. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 04:36, 29 April 2007 (UTC).

Rewrite Definitions section[edit]

I would propose that the definitions section needs to be rewritten on the basis of the following.

  • First, Wikipedia is by definition and so it is inappropriate to be trying to list every possible meaning of a word. The article is supposed to be about a topic, not a word and this list of definitions makes it unclear what that topic is.
  • All articles should be relatively formal and serious. The discussion of the colloquial use of "north" to describe travel that isn't perfectly northward, at best, deserves only a passing mention, if that. 3 of the 5 definitions her pertain to this vague, non-scientific concept.

This article should stick to describing the geographical and/or magnetic north (actually it would be better to simply have two distinct articles which reference each other).
--Mcorazao 19:36, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

It's been less than 5 years since i "pretty much obliterate[d] the former main paragraph", in my second month of editing. But what the heck, i'm giving it another lick already.
MC is pretty much right -- each article has a single topic (even tho Dabs are abt words) -- but i'd like to go further: except as Dabs and Wikt entries, i don't think any of the compass points rate their own articles. Much of the current material of the accompanying North should be moved into Cardinal direction, esp. since it is really about the relations among cardinal points, rather than one or another in isolation. The last 4 of the now 6 definitions should be moved to Wikt -- not so much for being "vague, non-scientific concept[s]" or failing to be "serious" (they are similar but quite distinguishable and adequately "formal", and we are not limited to science even where it can be applied) -- but as dict-defs.
As to separating magnetic and celestial/true, i think they are almost separable from the individual compass points, but should be treated in terms of their relationship to each other, rather than with each compass point as, Dab-like, sets of two distinct variants (or in any case Dab'g), nor indeed as separate sets of compass points. They are the same sets of compass points, treating the points identically beyond the tiny detail of anchoring the system on one or the other kind of north reference.
--Jerzyt 08:46, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Needed: "Possibly life saving adendum to this article" or "Telling North" (maybe a separate, prominently linked article?)[edit]

Hi actual contributors!
I guess the post title applies to all cardinal points. And I need not belabor orientation I'm guessing. So, exempli gratia:
--How to identify Polaris. Link to other night astro-clues (ecliptic zenith w.r.t latitude and East-West, for the astrologists amongst us : ). Link to Southern Cross and the "South" Wiki Article. Mention of how, e.g. Cassiopea's third line of the "W" roughly points North (with a mention of actual angular deflection for the eidetic)...
--The old "Gallipoli" movie watch trick, inverted for Northern hemisphere. I foget which works what for which Hemisphere, but the idea being: Bisect the angle between the hour hand and 12 o'clock for North. Whether you point 12 o'clock or the hour hand at the Sun is the hemisphere dependent part as I remember. And in this Casio age, mention of visualising a huge clock around you in the desert : )
--Stick-in-the-ground solar-shadow two point time-lapse linear solution for east-west; for which N is perpendicular. How does that work for Moonlight? It's on the ecliptic, so it can't be too far from the Sun solution, I gather. Does it apply to the watch trick? Does it vary from it? Mention of how to reverse the old "The Golden Sun sets in the West" children's song to determine which is East point and which is West for the shadow trick.
--Moss growing on sunny sides of trees and latitude implications. Mushrooms and fungi on the shady side. The South-East Asian "Traveller's Palm". Other bio-clues. And physical clues like moisture differentials on rocks.
--Eyeballing shadows w.r.t time of day. Factoring in error margins for latitude and analemma? Can someone come up with a four line "Red at night, sailor's delight, red in the morning, sailors take warning"-type mnemonic? One line per season? Is there a genious that can word it hemisphere flip-floppable?
Whatever other good methods you guys can think of. How much do tradewinds or seasonal meteorological events (e.g. Mistral or Monsoon) typically vary in direction? Can you use that if you're floating in a dinggy in the Ocean outside the Horse Latitudes? I'm stretching, but you get the idea. Do you think this article should contain this info directly, or should it be a subordinate related article?
Thanks guys!
Just as a comment, dealing with the Mexico City maze, I've always loved cars that have their radio antena on the hood (bonnet for you Anglophiles and amazing London cabbies). During a relatively sunny morning or afternoon, all I need is a shadow (and my Guia Roji mapbook) to figure out exactly how I screwed up : )
--Manuelcuribe 01:36, 21 January 2008 (UTC) Mexico City, México

Welcome, new editor and (hopefully) future article editor!
The section and page titles that you propose both suggest how-to content (or is it more a matter if tone?), which we tend to avoid. But IMO the topic points sound like material for an article on, perhaps, low-tech navigation, emphasizing underlying theory and minimizing advice.
--Jerzyt 09:02, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

The "original"North and ancient wisdom[edit]

It is a little surprising to see that there is no mention of how North would have naturally turned up as a fundamental direction (in comparison to all other directions viz.east,west, or south) from the perspective of a (typically northern hemisphere) dweller of the ancient times.

From the point of a (geodetically fixed) observer, the direction of sunrise or sunset is never consistent over a period of an year. It rather keeps slipping a little every day swinging between solstices.

But, how about the shadow of a stick or pole that is vertically placed on the ground? An analemma? Both its length and orientation keeps changing everyday/moment too.

Nevertheless, there is one fundamental quantity that does not change! The direction that it points every day when it is the shortest! The shortest shadow itself is produced when it is exactly mid-noon. And if one plots the direction of these instances everyday noon, it will consistently point to a single direction that is "True North"! (For people at more southern latitudes, the shadow may 'travel' towards a diametrically opposite direction (south) for some number of days, usually at the extreme of northern solstice).

This gives a proper and genuine reason for ancient men to use North as the fundamental direction. Once that direction is decided, calculating exact East, West and South should be a simple exercise of geometry.

It will be interesting to connect this fact to the point discussed above about the possible etymology ( ner- under/below) where the shadow is at its lowest point at noon.

Some illustrative references: #1, #2,#3

May I request someone to re-write those sections appropriately and in a better style than mine, taking consideration of this fact? Thanks. ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 22:23, 11 May 2013 (UTC)

"Roles of east and west as inherently subsidiary directions" -- This section needs help![edit]

There are no citations given in this section. Even worse, the section ends with a long quotation that opens with quotation marks -- that never close!

I would add the closing quotation marks, but don't know the source, so that would be inappropriate. Can anyone else help with this, please? RobertLovesPi (talk) 23:12, 10 October 2014 (UTC)