compass points (etymology)

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maxiogee

Banned
English
In another thread I said....

In Irish the word for south is derived from "on the right hand" and the word for "to the left" is the same as "against the direction of the sun" - which would mean that the ancient Irish aligned themselves by facing the rising sun.
I neglected to mention that the word for west is the same as that for the preposition "behind".

How do other languages derive their compass point words?
 
  • drudi

    Senior Member
    Italian Italy
    Hi! I've checked in the Italian dictionary:
    Sud (south) comes from the Anglo-saxon "sudh" This word entered the Italian linguistic area in XVI century thanks to trade relationships. It stands for "sun" also, in opposition with Nord (north) that stands for tramontana (i.e. Wind blowing from the North)...
    Moreover you can find also two other words to say Sud and nord:meridione and settentrione
    settentrione comes from Latin SEPTEM (seven) and TRIONES (oxes for the plough) SEPTEM TRIONES, that stands for the costellation of the Great Bear (otherwise called The Plough) made of seven stars. The part of world that is under this constellation is situated in the North.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Portuguese is like Italian:

    North - norte
    South - sul
    East - este/leste
    West - oeste

    All of them are loans from Germanic languages.
     

    Wynn Mathieson

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    In another thread I said....

    In Irish the word for south is derived from "on the right hand" and the word for "to the left" is the same as "against the direction of the sun" - which would mean that the ancient Irish aligned themselves by facing the rising sun.
    I neglected to mention that the word for west is the same as that for the preposition "behind".

    How do other languages derive their compass point words?
    In Welsh, too, there is a correspondance between "right" (de) and "south" (de). And north European maps from the middle ages commonly have east (facing the rising sun) at the top.

    Wynn
     

    Wynn Mathieson

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    The Romance languages frequently use "midday" as a synonym for "south", since that is the direction of the noonday sun. But, as has already been pointed out, the cardinal points in those languages today are loanwords from Germanic (and specifically, Old English).

    The Latinate "septentrion" for "north" derives, of course, from the "Seven Stars" of Ursa Major: the one constellation almost everyone in the northern hemisphere can easily find in the night sky -- and which many of us still use, on our nocturnal rambles, to find north!

    Wynn
     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Indonesian / Malay, tímur "east"
    Tagálog / Pilipíno tímog "south"
    Note. Proto-Austresian *R reflexed as /r/ in Malay, and as /g/ in Tagalog.
     

    tvdxer

    Senior Member
    Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
    The Spanish words are:

    South: sur
    North: norte
    West: oeste
    East: este

    Adjectives are sureño, norteño, occidental, and oriental respectively.

    All of the nouns for the directions are derived from Old English words, according to the RAE (suth, north, west, east). Going much farther back in time and using the Online Etymological Dictionary, those words are derived from Indo-European words.

    South is possibly from the Proto-Germanic base word for sun, *sunnon, from re-constructed Proto Indo-European (5,000 - 3,000 BC) *suwen, alternative form of *saewel "to shine, sun", which would make south and sur distantly cognate with sol.

    North comes from Proto-Germanic *nurtha, itself possibly from the PIE root *ner-, reconstructed by linguists (like every other PIE root; there is no written evidence of this pre-historic language) as meaning "left" or "below".

    West is from Proto-Germanic *w-est-, from Proto Indo-European *wes. This makes it cognate with the Latin word vesper and the Greek word hesperos "evening, west".

    East is from Proto-Germanic *aus-to, *austra, "east", "towards the sunrise", and this from PIE *aus, "dawn", "to shine", the source of Latin auster "south" and aurora "dawn", Sanskrit ushas "dawn", and Greek aurion "morning".

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=east&searchmode=none
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    Hindi/Panjabi
    North: uttar
    South: dakshin (dakhkhan in Panjabi)
    East: poorab
    Wast: pashchim (pachcham in Panjabi)

    Urdu
    North: shimaal
    South: janoob
    East: mashriq
    West: magrib
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    In another thread I said....


    In Irish the word for south is derived from "on the right hand" and the word for "to the left" is the same as "against the direction of the sun" - which would mean that the ancient Irish aligned themselves by facing the rising sun.​
    I neglected to mention that the word for west is the same as that for the preposition "behind".

    How do other languages derive their compass point words?
    This is an interesting remark, Tony!

    In Arabic, the word for east "sharq" شرق shares the root with the word شروق "shurúq" which means the rising of the sun. West غرب "gharb" is the exact opposite: it indicates the sun's setting "ghurúb" غروب .

    I'm not sure about the original meaning for the word for the North شمال shamál. And I think Qcumber's explanation for south plausible.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    That reminds me of some alternative words for the compass points in Portuguese:

    adjectives:

    Northern: setentrional (explained above)
    Southern: meridional
    Eastern: oriental
    Western: ocidental

    These are all from Latin, and they are used in more formal language and in some set phrases. There are also two beautiful words related to sunrise and sunset:

    East: levante
    West: poente

    These are used in literary language. See this thread, as well. :cool:
     

    Chazzwozzer

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Very interesting!

    Turkish:

    Güney: South. Gün is the root of this word and means day. I think the suffix -ey works as "to the" (to the South) although I'm not sure. I guess this suffix only found in güney and kuzey.
    Kuzey: North. Kuz is the root of this word and refers to somewhere that gets no sun light, a dictionary tells me. Kuz is almost never used in modern Turkish.
    Doğu: East. "Güneş doğar. (The sun rises.)" As you see, it refers to sun rising. Also, note that the the sun and south shares the same root: gün, the day.
    Batı: West. "Güneş batar. (The sun sets.)" Batı is the opposite concept of doğu.
     

    parakseno

    Senior Member
    Romanian, Romania
    Romanian:

    North
    nord < fr. nord
    miazănoapte < lat. medium noctem

    South
    sud < fr. sud
    miazăzi < lat. mediam diem

    West
    vest < germ. "West"
    apus, asfinţit - literally mean "(sun)set"

    East
    est < fr. "Est"
    răsărit - to rise
    orient < fr. orient, lat. oriens
     

    robbie_SWE

    Senior Member
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    Parakseno is completely right, but in Romanian the following words are also used:

    septentrional
    meridional
    occidental
    oriental

    :) robbie
     

    parakseno

    Senior Member
    Romanian, Romania
    Parakseno is completely right, but in Romanian the following words are also used:

    septentrional
    meridional
    occidental
    oriental

    :) robbie
    True... they're adjectives, some of them quite frequently used in everyday language too (especially the last two).
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    More words... :D

    Of course we also say:

    East: oriente
    West: ocidente

    For example:

    Middle East: Médio Oriente (not Médio Este:cross:)
    Far East: Extremo Oriente (not Extremo Este:cross:)
    The West (is the best ;)): O Ocidente
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    Thanks everyone.

    Does no other langauge relate direction to the body as directly as Irish does?
    I find that most interesting.
     

    amikama

    a mi modo
    עברית
    Hebrew:

    East - מזרח (mizrah). It's where the Sun זורחת (=shines).
    West - מערב (ma'arav). When the Sun sets, it's ערב (=evening).

    North - צפון (tsafon)
    South - דרום (darom)
    (I'm not sure about the etymology of these words.)
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    Very interesting!

    Turkish:

    Güney: South. Gün is the root of this word and means day. I think the suffix -ey works as "to the" (to the South) although I'm not sure. I guess this suffix only found in güney and kuzey.
    Kuzey: North. Kuz is the root of this word and refers to somewhere that gets no sun light, a dictionary tells me. Kuz is almost never used in modern Turkish.
    Doğu: East. "Güneş doğar. (The sun rises.)" As you see, it refers to sun rising. Also, note that the the sun and south shares the same root: gün, the day.
    Batı: West. "Güneş batar. (The sun sets.)" Batı is the opposite concept of doğu.
    So is Kuz is never used, what do you say for "south?"
     

    Ilmo

    Member Emeritus
    Finnish:
    North = pohjoinen
    East = itä
    South = etelä
    West = länsi

    The word itä may originate from the verb itää (= to germinate), because the sun started to rise or 'germinate' from that direction. In some related languages the verb itää means actually that the sun rises.

    The word etelä is the warm compass point that was in front of the dwelling, that is in Finnish edessä. The front side is in Finnish etupuoli.

    The word länsi is in Estonian and Latvian "lents". The word meaning the spring was in ancient German 'lenze' or 'lenzo'. The word has meant also 'long'.
    Apparently the ancient Finns thought that the spring, when the days were getting longer, came from the west, that's the reason they called it länsi.

    The word pohjoinen comes from the fact that the 'bottom" or back side of the dwelling, in Finnish pohja, was always towards the North.

    In Finnish we have our own words also for the intermediate points, without using the names of the cardinal points:

    Northeast = koillinen
    Souteast = kaakko
    Southwest = lounainen or lounas
    Northwest = luode

    Are there corresponding special words in other languages?
     

    danielfranco

    Senior Member
    In Náhuatl:
    Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Skybearer of the East.
    Mictlantecuhtli, Skybearer of the South.
    Huehueteotl, Skybearer of the North.
    Ehecatl, Skybearer of the West.

    (But of course, these gods had other jobs to do besides holding up the sky, like Ehécatl, who was the creator of the heavens and the earth, and other interesting jobs, like impersonating the feathered serpent Quetzalcóatl)

    And, the Aztecs also believed in two additional directions: Up and Down, usually represented by the heavens and the earth. But I'm not clear whether or not Chalmecatl (the underworld) and Tonatiuh (the Sun) were the ones invoked in giving directions to newcomer Spaniards on how to go to hell.
     

    Cleo-Mi

    New Member
    Romania
    Latvian:

    North - ziemeļi
    South - dienvidi
    East - austrumi
    West - rietumi
    Seeing Karuna's post I remembered that in Romanian we also have the word "austru", but it means South! "Austru" is also the name of a dry wind that blows from the South.
    The adjective "austral/a" is used in the expression "emisfera australa" = the South emisphere ("emisfera sudica").
    The North emisphere ("emisfera nordica") is also called "emisfera boreala".
    For the North there is also another adjective "arctic/a".
     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Im suprised that Tagalog doesn't use the Spanish equivalents.
    They do a lot.
    I remember attending a conference in the Netherlands. A US lecturer talked about these four terms. The three Filipino scholars present said they were seldom used in everyday speech as their Spanish equivalents were preferred.
    (As a non-Filipino I was surprised, because they do occur in texts.)
    Besides, if you have a look at a map of the Philippines, you'll see such names as Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Misamis Oriental, Cordillera Central, etc.
    By the way the terms mentioned by Tanzhang are stressed:
    north: hilágà [hi'la:ga?]
    south: tímor
    east: silángan [si'la:Nan] < sílang "appearance, birth"
    west: kanlúran < kalunúran < lúnod "drowning"
    west: habágat (obsolete, also the name of a west or south-west wind)
     

    K.u.r.t

    Senior Member
    Czech
    Czech:
    north - sever
    south - jih
    west - západ (meaning where sun sets)
    east - východ (meaning where sun rises)


    Polish:
    N puolnoc - this actualy means midnight in Czech
    S poludnie - this actualy means noon in Czech
    W zachód - this actualy means toilet :D in Czech
    E wzchód - this actualy doesn't mean anything in Czech
    (not sure about the spelling)
     

    Marga H

    Senior Member
    Poland,Polish
    Polish:
    N puolnoc - this actualy means midnight in Czech
    S poludnie - this actualy means noon in Czech
    W zachód - this actualy means toilet :D in Czech
    E wzchód - this actualy doesn't mean anything in Czech
    (not sure about the spelling)
    Not exactly.
    N północ - means midnight in Polish , too
    S południe = midday or noon
    E wschód ( słońca ) = sunrise
    W zachód ( słońca ) = sunset
     

    Nezquirc

    Member
    Swedish, Sweden
    In swedish, it's just like german or english:

    North = Nord
    East = Öst
    South = Syd
    West = Väst

    One interesting thing though is that the words are slighly changed when you say them in most other context besides compass directions:

    Nord = Norr
    Öst = Öster
    Syd = Söder
    Väst = Väster

    Also, väster (west) is similar to vänster (left), but I think that's coincidence.
     

    ger4

    Senior Member
    German
    Comparing Finnish and Estonian:
    Finnish: Estonian:
    North = pohjoinen = põhi
    East = itä = ida
    South = etelä = lõuna --> compare Finnish SW
    West = länsi = lääs

    The word itä may originate from the verb itää (= to germinate), because the sun started to rise or 'germinate' from that direction. In some related languages the verb itää means actually that the sun rises.

    The word etelä is the warm compass point that was in front of the dwelling, that is in Finnish edessä. The front side is in Finnish etupuoli.

    The word länsi is in Estonian and Latvian "lents". The word meaning the spring was in ancient German 'lenze' or 'lenzo'. The word has meant also 'long'.
    Apparently the ancient Finns thought that the spring, when the days were getting longer, came from the west, that's the reason they called it länsi.

    The word pohjoinen comes from the fact that the 'bottom" or back side of the dwelling, in Finnish pohja, was always towards the North.

    In Finnish we have our own words also for the intermediate points, without using the names of the cardinal points:

    Northeast = koillinen = kirre
    Southeast = kaakko = kagu
    Southwest = lounainen or lounas = loe
    Northwest = luode = edel

    Are there corresponding special words in other languages?
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    The word länsi is in Estonian and Latvian "lents". The word meaning the spring was in ancient German 'lenze' or 'lenzo'. The word has meant also 'long'.
    Apparently the ancient Finns thought that the spring, when the days were getting longer, came from the west, that's the reason they called it länsi.
    Just for the sake of accuracy: the only etymology for länsi that I am familiar with (and the only one mentioned in e.g. Häkkinen's 2004 dictionary) involves a connection to the word lansi "low, lowland", based on the fact that the sun is "lower" when setting in the west. Häkkinen describes this connection as speculative, i.e. unproven.

    Modern German Lenz is from *langa-tinaz "long" + "day", reflected in OHG lengizin (manoth), Old English lencten, etc.
     
    In Greek:

    North: «Βορράς» [voˈɾas] (masc.), and colloquially «Βοριάς» [voˈrʝas] (masc.) < Classical masc. noun «Βορέας» Bŏréās, Attic «Βορρᾶς» Bŏrrhãs --> North wind, cardinal North (possibly from PIE *gʷ(o)rH-, mountain cf Skt. गिरि (giri), mountain, hill; Proto-Slavic *gora, mountain, hill > Rus./Ukr. горa, Cz./Svk. hora, Pol. góra, OCS > Bul. горa, BCS/Slo. горa/gora). Ιn navy slang it's «Τραμουντάνα» [tɾamun'dana] (fem.) < Venetian tramontana < Lat. trans-montanus.
    Ancient Greeks called the North wind, «Ἀπαρκτίας» Ăpărktíās (masc.) --> Northwards < compound; Classical prefix and preposition «ἀπό» āpó --> far away, away from (PIE *h₂epo-, from cf Skt. अप (apa), away, Hitt. āppa-, after) + Classical masc. adj. «ἄρκτιος» ắrktīŏs --> northern (PIE *h₂rtḱo-, bear cf Hitt. ḫartagga-, wild animal; Skt. ऋक्ष (ṛkṣa), bear; Lat. ursus > It. orso, Sp. oso, Por. urso, Fr. ours, Rom. urs; Arm. արջ (arj)).
    South: «Νότος» [ˈnotos] (masc.), and colloquially «Νοτιάς» [noˈtças] (masc.) < Classical masc. noun «Νότος» Nótŏs --> South wind (which brings wetness: «νοτίη» nŏtíē), cardinal South (with obscure etymology). In navy slang, it's called «Νοτιάς» [noˈtças] (masc.), or «Όστρια» [ˈostri.a] (fem.) < Venetian Ostria < Lat. Auster.
    East: «Ανατολή» [anatoˈli] (fem.) < Classical fem. noun «Ἀνατολὴ» Ănătŏlḕ --> cardinal East < Classical v. «ἀνατέλλω» ănătéllō --> to bring forth, give birth to, rise, appear before the horizon < compound; prefix and preposition «ἀνά» āná --> up along (PIE *h₂en-, up, on high cf Proto-Germanic *ana, on, upon, onto > Ger. an, Eng. on, Dt. aan, Isl. á, D. på, Nor. på (Bokmål)/å (Nynorsk), Swe. å, på) + Classical v. «τέλλω» téllō --> to make rise, spring, produce (PIE *telh₂-, to bear, endure cf Lat. tolerāre, to bear, endure, tolerate > Sp./Por. tolerar, Fr. tolérer; Proto-Germanic *tolnar- > Ger. Zoll, Eng. toll, Dt. tol, Isl. tollur, Swe. tull). Ιn navy jargon it's called «Λεβάντες» [le'vandes] (masc.) < Venetian Levante. Sometimes the name «Απηλιώτης»[apiˈʎotis] is used as the formal name of «Λεβάντες».
    Ancient Greeks called the East wind, «Ἀπηλιώτης» Ᾰpēlĭṓtēs (masc.) --> Sunwards < compound; Classical prefix and preposition «ἀπό» āpó --> far away, away from (PIE *h₂epo-, from cf Skt. अप (apa), away, Hitt. āppa-, after) + Classical masc. noun «ἥλιος» hḗlīŏs --> sun (PIE *seh₂u-el-, sun cf Skt. स्वर् (svar); Lith. saulė; Proto-Germanic *sōwul > Isl. sól, D./Nor./Swe. sol; Lat. sōl > It. sole, Sp./P. sol, Rom. soare; Proto-Slavic *sъlnьce > Rus. солнце, Cz. slunce, Pol. słońce, OCS слъньцє).
    West: «Δύση» [ˈðisi] (fem.) < Classical 3rd decl. fem. noun «Δύσις» Dúsīs --> setting of sun and stars, cardinal West (PIE *deu-, to go in, enter cf Skt. उपादत्ते (upAdatte), to take up). In navy language the west wind is named «Πουνέντες» [pu'nendes] (mac.) < Venetian Punente (westerly wind).
    Ancient Greeks named the wind, «Ζέφυρος» Zépʰūrŏs (masc.) --> belonging to the west < Classical masc. noun «ζόφος» zópʰŏs --> dark, gloomy, poetic west (with obscure etymology).
    Comparing Finnish and Estonian:In Finnish we have our own words also for the intermediate points, without using the names of the cardinal points:


    Northeast = koillinen = kirre
    Southeast = kaakko = kagu
    Southwest = lounainen or lounas = loe
    Northwest = luode = edel


    Are there corresponding special words in other languages?
    Intermediate points:

    South-West: «Λίβας» [ˈlivas] (masc.) < Classical 3rd decl. masc. noun «*λίψ» líps -found only in oblique cases «λιβός» lībós (gen.), «λίβᾱ» líbā (acc.), (PIE *lei-/*leh₁-i-, to pour out, drip cf Lat. lībāre, to sprinkle, spill). In navy slang, the SW wind is called «Γαρμπής» [ɣarˈbis] (masc.) < Venetian Garbìn (the SW wind).
    North-West: «Σκιρωνοβορράς» [sciɾonovoˈras] (masc.) < Classical 3rd decl. masc. noun «Σκίρων» Skírōn (masc.) --> wind coming from hard, scrubby lands with obscure etymology. In navy jargon the NW wind is «Mαΐστρος» [maˈistros] (masc.) < Venetian Maistro < Latin Magister.
    South-East: «Εύρος» [ˈevɾos] (masc.) < Classical masc. noun «Εὖρος» Eũrŏs --> broad, wide (PIE *h₁urH-u-, broad cf Skt. वरस् (varas), width, breadth). In navy language the SE wind is «Σιρόκος» [siˈɾokos] (masc.) and «Σορόκος» [soˈɾokos] (masc.) < Arabic شرق (sharq) via Venetian Scirocco.
    North-East: «Μέσης» [ˈmesis] (masc.) < Classical masc. noun «Μέσης» Μésēs --> Middler (between N & E), (PIE *medʰio-, middle cf Skt. माध्य (mādhya), central, middle; Lat. medius; Arm. մէջ (mej), middle, midst). In navy slang the NE wind is called «Γρέγος» & «Γραίγος» (both spellings are common) [ˈɣɾeɣos] (masc.) < Venetian Grego (the wind blowing from the Greek-lands).
     
    Last edited:

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    As Romance languages, Catalan uses Germanic words: sud (S), nord (N), est (E), oest (W)

    Adjectives are also derived from Latin: meridional (S), septentrional (N), oriental (E), occidental (W)

    In addition, as other Romance languages, we have the winds' names that sometimes are used to refer to compass points:
    Tramuntana (N)
    Llevant (E)
    Migjorn (S)
    Ponent (W)
     

    810senior

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Hello.
    In Japanese, below are:

    北(kita) =North
    南(minami) =South
    東(higashi) =East
    西(nishi) =West

    i'm not sure where these words came from. but I remember higashi(The East) derived from himugashi(日向かし), which means a place where the sun rises.
     

    ilocas2

    Banned
    Czech
    Czech:
    north - sever
    south - jih
    west - západ (meaning where sun sets)
    east - východ (meaning where sun rises)


    Polish:
    N puolnoc - this actualy means midnight in Czech
    S poludnie - this actualy means noon in Czech
    W zachód - this actualy means toilet :D in Czech
    E wzchód - this actualy doesn't mean anything in Czech
    (not sure about the spelling)
    Czech:

    Polish:
    N puolnoc - this actualy means midnight in Czech
    S poludnie - this actualy means noon in Czech
    W zachód - this actualy means toilet :D in Czech
    E wzchód - this actualy doesn't mean anything in Czech
    (not sure about the spelling)
    Not exactly.
    N północ - means midnight in Polish , too
    S południe = midday or noon
    E wschód ( słońca ) = sunrise
    W zachód ( słońca ) = sunset
    This could be funny if the words for midnight and noon weren't used in old Czech for north and south too. :/

    In old Czech půlnoc (midnight) was used for north, also půlnoční strana (midnight side), and poledne (noon) was used for south, also polední strana (noon side).
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Armenian

    հյուսիս [hjusis] “north” (noun)
    հյուսիսային [hjusisajin] “north / northern” (adjective)

    I haven't found any secure etymological info on these words so far.

    հարավ [harav] “south” (n.)
    հարավային [haravajin] “south(ern)” (adj.)

    Possibly from *prowo-, the source of Slovene prvi “first”, Gothic frauja “lord” and other words meaning “first”, “foremost” etc.

    արեւելք [arevelk] “east” (n.)
    արեւելյան [areveljan] “east(ern)” (adj.)

    These are based on արեւ [arev] “sun” and the root ել- [jel] “ascend”.

    արեւմուտք [arevmutk] “west” (n.)
    արեվմտյան [arevmǝtjan] “west(ern)” (adj.)

    Both from արեւ “sun” + the root seen in մտնել [mǝtnel] “enter”.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    In Russian the names for the north and the south (séver and yúg) are ancient; etymologies of both aren't quite clear. "Yúg" seems to be a loan from Church Slavonic; the native Russian word would be *ug (ugŭ "оугъ" is actually attested in Old Russian).
    Regarding the east and the west (vostók and západ), their names are transparent enough: roughly it's "flowing up" and "falling behind (the horizon)".
    I guess that Slavonic sever for north is cognate with Latin septentrio
    Not really likely.
     
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