AskDefine | Define northward

Dictionary Definition

northward adj : moving toward the north; "the northbound lane"; "we took the north train"; "the northward flow of traffic" [syn: northbound] adv : in a northern direction; "they earn more up north"; "Let's go north!" [syn: north, to the north, in the north, northerly, northwards]

User Contributed Dictionary



From north + -ward


  1. The direction or area lying to the north of a place.


  1. Situated or directed towards the north; moving or facing towards the north.

Derived terms


  1. Towards the north; in a northerly direction.


Extensive Definition

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


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


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

Magnetic north and declination

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

Roles of north as prime direction

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

Roles of east and west as inherently subsidiary directions

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

See also

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

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

N, cardinal points, compass card, compass rose, degrees, east, eastward, half points, lubber line, north, north about, northeast, northerly, northwardly, northwards, northwest, norward, occident, orient, quarter points, rhumb, south, southeast, southward, southwest, sunrise, sunset, west, westward
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