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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.

About the Author

John Moen is a cartographer who along with his wife are the orignal founders of worldatlas.com. He and his wife, Chris Woolwine-Moen, produced thousands of award-winning maps that are used all over the world and content that aids students, teachers, travelers and parents with their geography and map questions. Today, it's one of the most popular educational sites on the web.

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This page was last updated on June 16, 2020.