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West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or
points of the compass The points of the compass are a set of horizontal, Radius, radially arrayed compass directions (or Azimuth#In navigation, azimuths) used in navigation and cartography. A compass rose is primarily composed of four cardinal directions—north, east ...
. It is the opposite direction from
east East or Orient is one of the four cardinal direction The four cardinal directions, or cardinal points, are the four main compass directions: north, east, south, and west, commonly denoted by their initials N, E, S, and W respectively. Relat ...
and is the direction in which the Sun sets on the Earth.


Etymology

The word "west" is a Germanic word passed into some
Romance languages The Romance languages, sometimes referred to as Latin languages or Neo-Latin languages, are the various modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin. They are the only extant subgroup of the Italic languages in the Indo-European languages, I ...
(''ouest'' in French, ''oest'' in Catalan, ''ovest'' in Italian, ''oeste'' in Spanish and Portuguese). As in other languages, the word formation stems from the fact that west is the direction of the setting sun in the evening: 'west' derives from the Indo-European root ''*wes'' reduced from ''*wes-pero'' 'evening, night', cognate with Ancient Greek ἕσπερος hesperos 'evening; evening star; western' and Latin vesper 'evening; west'. Examples of the same formation in other languages include Latin occidens 'west' from occidō 'to go down, to set' and Hebrew מַעֲרָב maarav 'west' from עֶרֶב erev 'evening'.


Navigation

To go west using a compass for
navigation Navigation is a field of study that focuses on the process of monitoring and controlling the motion, movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another.Bowditch, 2003:799. The field of navigation includes four general categories: land navi ...
(in a place where magnetic north is the same direction as true north) one needs to set a bearing or
azimuth An azimuth (; from ar, اَلسُّمُوت, as-sumūt, the directions) is an Angle#Measuring angles, angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system. More specifically, it is the horizontal angle from a cardinal direction, most commonly ...
of 270°. West is the direction opposite that of the
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. While large list of largest lakes and seas in the Solar System, volumes of water can be found throughout the Solar System, only water distributi ...
's rotation on its axis, and is therefore the general direction towards which the
Sun The Sun is the star A star is an astronomical object comprising a luminous spheroid of plasma (physics), plasma held together by its gravity. The List of nearest stars and brown dwarfs, nearest star to Earth is the Sun. Many other st ...
appears to constantly progress and eventually set. This is not true on the planet
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is sometimes called Earth's "sister" or "twin" planet as it is almost as large and has a similar composition. As an Inferior and superior planets, interior planet to Earth, Venus (like Mercury (pl ...
, which rotates in the opposite direction from the Earth ( retrograde rotation). To an observer on the surface of Venus, the Sun would rise in the west and set in the east although Venus's opaque clouds prevent observing the Sun from the planet's surface. In a map with north at the top, west is on the left. Moving continuously west is following a
circle of latitude A circle of latitude or line of latitude on Earth is an abstract east–west small circle connecting all locations around Earth (ignoring elevation) at a given latitude coordinate line. Circles of latitude are often called parallels because ...
.


Weather

Due to the direction of the Earth's rotation, the prevailing wind in many places in the
middle latitudes The middle latitudes (also called the mid-latitudes, sometimes midlatitudes, or moderate latitudes) are a spatial region on Earth located between the Tropic of Cancer (latitudes 23°26'22") to the Arctic Circle (66°33'39"), and Tropic of Caprico ...
(i.e. between 35 and 65 degrees
latitude In geography, latitude is a Geographic coordinate system, coordinate that specifies the north–south position of a point on the surface of the Earth or another celestial body. Latitude is given as an angle that ranges from –90° at the south ...
) is from the west, known as the
westerlies The westerlies, anti-trades, or prevailing westerlies, are prevailing winds from the west toward the east in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude. They originate from the high-pressure areas in the horse latitudes and trend to ...
.


Cultural

The phrase "the West" is often spoken in reference to the
Western world The Western world, also known as the West, primarily refers to the various nations and state (polity), states in the regions of Europe, North America, and Oceania.
, which includes the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
(also the
EFTA The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of four List of sovereign states and dependent territories in Europe, European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerlan ...
countries), the Americas, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and (in part) South Africa. The concept of the Western part of the earth has its roots in the
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprised the western provinces of the Roman Empire at any time during which they were administered by a separate independent Imperial court; in particular, this term is used in historiography to describe the period fr ...
and the
Western Christianity Western Christianity is one of two sub-divisions of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings ...
. During the
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
"the West" was often used to refer to the
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental military alliance between 30 Member sta ...
camp as opposed to the
Warsaw Pact The Warsaw Pact (WP) or Treaty of Warsaw, formally the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was a Collective security#Collective defense, collective defense treaty signed in Warsaw, Polish People's Republic, Poland, between ...
and non-aligned nations. The expression survives, with an increasingly ambiguous meaning.


Symbolic meanings

In Chinese
Buddhism Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religions, Indian religion or Indian philosophy#Buddhist philosophy, philosophical tradition based on Pre-sectarian Buddhism, teachings attributed to the Buddha. ...
, the West represents movement toward the
Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, most commonly referred to as the Buddha, was a śramaṇa, wandering ascetic and religious teacher who lived in South Asia during the 6th or 5th century BCE and founded Buddhism. According to Buddhist tradition, he was ...
or enlightenment (see
Journey to the West ''Journey to the West'' () is a Chinese novel published in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng'en. It is regarded as one of the greatest Classic Chinese Novels, and has been described as arguably the most popul ...
). The ancient
Aztec The Aztecs () were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521. The Aztec people included different Indigenous peoples of Mexico, ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those g ...
s believed that the West was the realm of the great goddess of
water Water (chemical formula ) is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the fluids of all known living ...
, mist, and
maize Maize ( ; ''Zea mays'' subsp. ''mays'', from es, maíz after tnq, mahiz), also known as corn (North American English, North American and Australian English), is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples of Mexico, indigenous ...
. In
Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Domini, BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the ...
, the West was considered to be the portal to the netherworld, and is the cardinal direction regarded in connection with
death Death is the Irreversible process, irreversible cessation of all biological process, biological functions that sustain an organism. For organisms with a brain, death can also be defined as the irreversible cessation of functioning of the whol ...

death
, though not always with a negative connotation. Ancient Egyptians also believed that the
Goddess A goddess is a female deity. In many known cultures, goddesses are often linked with literal or metaphorical pregnancy or imagined feminine roles associated with how women and girls are perceived or expected to behave. This includes themes of s ...

Goddess
Amunet Amunet () or Imnt (''The Hidden One'' in hieroglyphics); also spelled Amonet or Amaunet; grc-koi, Αμαυνι) is a primordial goddess in ancient Egyptian religion.Wilkinson (2003), pp. 136–137.Hart (1986), p. 2. Thebes was the center of her w ...
was a personification of the West. Campbell, Joseph. ''The Mythic Image.''
Princeton University Press Princeton University Press is an independent Academic publishing, publisher with close connections to Princeton University. Its mission is to disseminate scholarship within academia and society at large. The press was founded by Whitney Darrow, ...

Princeton University Press
, 1981.
The
Celt The Celts (, see Names of the Celts#Pronunciation, pronunciation for different usages) or Celtic peoples () are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-Europea ...

Celt
s believed that beyond the western sea off the edges of all maps lay the
Otherworld The concept of an otherworld in historical Indo-European religion is reconstructed in comparative mythology. Its name is a calque of ''orbis alius'' (Latin for "other Earth/world"), a term used by Lucan in his description of the Celtic Otherworld ...
, or Afterlife. In
Judaism Judaism ( he, ''Yahăḏūṯ'') is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots ...
, west is seen to be toward the
Shekinah
Shekinah
(presence) of God, as in Jewish history the
Tabernacle According to the Hebrew Bible, the tabernacle ( he, מִשְׁכַּן, mīškān, residence, dwelling place), also known as the Tent of the Congregation ( he, link=no, אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, ’ōhel mō‘ēḏ, also Tent of Meeting, etc.), ...

Tabernacle
and subsequent
Jerusalem Temple The Temple in Jerusalem, or alternatively the Holy Temple (; , ), refers to the two now-destroyed religious structures that served as the central places of worship for Israelites and Jews on the modern-day Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusa ...

Jerusalem Temple
faced east, with God's Presence in the
Holy of Holies The Holy of Holies (Hebrew language, Hebrew: ''Qōḏeš haqQŏḏāšīm'' or ''Kodesh HaKodashim''; also הַדְּבִיר ''haDəḇīr'', 'the Sanctuary') is a term in the Hebrew Bible that refers to the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle, w ...

Holy of Holies
up the steps to the west. According to the
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek , , 'the books') is a collection of religious texts or scriptures that are held to be sacredness, sacred in Christianity, Judaism, Samaritanism, and many other religions. The Bible is an anthologya compilation of ...

Bible
, the
Israelites The Israelites (; , , ) were a group of ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes in the ancient Near East who, during the Iron Age, inhabited a part of Canaan. The earliest recorded evidence of a people by the name of Israel ...

Israelites
crossed the
Jordan River The Jordan River or River Jordan ( ar, نَهْر الْأُرْدُنّ, ''Nahr al-ʾUrdunn'', he, נְהַר הַיַּרְדֵּן, ''Nəhar hayYardēn''; syc, ܢܗܪܐ ܕܝܘܪܕܢܢ ''Nahrāʾ Yurdnan''), also known as ''Nahr Al-Shariea ...

Jordan River
westward into the
Promised Land The Promised Land ( he, הארץ המובטחת, translit.: ''ha'aretz hamuvtakhat''; ar, أرض الميعاد, translit.: ''ard al-mi'ad; also known as "The Land of Milk and Honey"'') is the land which, according to the Tanakh The H ...
. In
Islam Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centred primarily around the Quran, a religious text considered by Muslims to be the direct word of God in Islam, God (or ''Allah'') as it was revealed to Muh ...
, while in India, people pray facing towards the west as in respect to
Mecca Mecca (; officially Makkah al-Mukarramah, commonly shortened to Makkah ()) is a city and administrative center of the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia, and the Holiest sites in Islam, holiest city in Islam. It is inland from Jeddah on the Red ...

Mecca
,
Mecca Mecca (; officially Makkah al-Mukarramah, commonly shortened to Makkah ()) is a city and administrative center of the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia, and the Holiest sites in Islam, holiest city in Islam. It is inland from Jeddah on the Red ...

Mecca
is in the West-ward direction. In
American literature American literature is literature written or produced in the United States, United States of America and in the Colonial history of the United States, colonies that preceded it. The American literary tradition thus is part of the broader t ...
(e.g., in '' The Great Gatsby'') moving West has sometimes symbolized gaining
freedom Freedom is understood as either having the ability to act or change without constraint or to possess the power and resources to fulfill one's purposes unhindered. Freedom is often associated with liberty and autonomy in the sense of "giving one ...

freedom
, perhaps as an association with the settling of the
Wild West The American frontier, also known as the Old West or the Wild West, encompasses the geography, history, folklore, and culture associated with the forward wave of United States territorial acquisitions, American expansion in mainland North Amer ...

Wild West
(see also the
American frontier The American frontier, also known as the Old West or the Wild West, encompasses the geography, history, folklore, and culture associated with the forward wave of American expansion in mainland North America that began with European colonial s ...
and
Manifest Destiny Manifest destiny was a cultural belief in the 19th century in the United States, 19th-century United States that American settlers were destined to expand across North America. There were three basic tenets to the concept: * The special vir ...

Manifest Destiny
).


Fantasy fiction

Tolkien John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (, ; 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer and philology, philologist. He was the author of the high fantasy works ''The Hobbit'' and ''The Lord of the Rings''. From 1925 to 1945, Tolkien was ...
used it symbolically, with the dying Thorin calling
Bilbo Baggins Bilbo Baggins is the title character and protagonist of J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel '' The Hobbit'', a supporting character in '' The Lord of the Rings'', and the fictional narrator (along with Frodo Baggins) of many of Tolkien's Mid ...
"child of the kindly West" in ''
The Hobbit ''The Hobbit, or There and Back Again'' is a Juvenile fantasy, children's fantasy novel by English author J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published in 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal (literary award), ...
''. This is much more definite in ''
The Lord of the Rings ''The Lord of the Rings'' is an epic high-fantasy novel by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. Set in Middle-earth, intended to be Earth at some time in the distant past, the story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 children's ...
'', where the east served
Sauron Sauron (pronounced ) is the title character and the primary antagonist, through the forging of the One Ring, of J. R. R. Tolkien's ''The Lord of the Rings'', where he rules the land of Mordor and has the ambition of ruling the whole of Middl ...
and his enemies associate themselves with the West. In Saberhagen's Empire of the East series, the rival powers are West and East, including both humans and supernatural beings. All demons are part of the East. This is not universal. In Tolkien's earlier work, the north had been the direction of evil. C S Lewis in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has the east as the sacred direction, leading to Aslan's country


References


External links

* {{CandODirections Orientation (geometry)