Cardinal Directions and the Compass Rose

Cardinal Directions are the most commonly used forms of direction. and include North, South, East and West.

The four equal divisions - Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Northwest - are called Primary InterCardinal directions.

Additional subdivisions indicated on the compass rose, between the Cardinal and Primary InterCardinal directions are in fact called Secondary InterCardinal directions, but they are hardly ever used. Example: North-Northeast.

The Compass Rose can be traced back to early nautical times, and its primary purpose was to display the cardinal directions in a readable and usable format. Elaborate versions of the Compass Rose exist in and on historic atlases and maps, similar to the sample below.

This page was last modified on August 7, 2015.