Cardinal points

What are the Cardinal Points?

Cardinal points refers to the four senses or directions that allow a person to orient themselves in space. These senses or directions are:

  • North (N)
  • South (S)
  • East (E)
  • West (W)

There are also points called secondary or collateral, which are established based on the cardinal points. These are:

  • Northeast (NE)
  • Northwest (NO)
  • Southeast (SE)
  • Southwest (SW)

The function of the cardinal points is to establish a minimum of conventional references that allow the traveler to orient himself on the earth's surface or in the interpretation of a map.

The compass is the instrument that was designed to facilitate the orientation of explorers. The compass, by means of a magnetic needle, indicates the Earth's magnetic north.

North is the cardinal point par excellence, since the other points are drawn from this point. In other words, the traveler is always oriented according to the north location, which allows him to identify the other cardinal points.

The word "cardinals" derives from the Latin term thistle, commonly used in the Roman Empire to designate the main street of cities, which ran from north to south.

Ancient nomenclature of the cardinal points

The names that the cardinal points receive today are of Germanic origin, and their incorporation into Castilian is relatively recent. Before the Germanic nomenclature came into force, the names of the cardinal points in Spanish evoked the solar positions.

From the observation of the solar orbit, the ancients achieved a reference system that could be understood by everyone and applicable to any place where a person was. The term I raised, for example, refers to the rising of the sun (sunrise), while the term west It will refer to the sunset (sunset).

Germanic nomenclatureOld nomenclatureNorthNorthern or BorealSouthMeridion or AustralEastEast, Nascent or LevantWestWest or West

See also:

  • Location.
  • Map.
  • Compass

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