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A 16-point compass rose with east highlighted

East is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography. East is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of west and is perpendicular to north and south.

By convention, the right hand side of a map is east. This convention has developed from the use of a compass, which places north at the top. Historically, most were mostly orientated to the east as that is where the sun rises.[citation needed]

To go east using a compass for navigation, set a bearing or azimuth of 90°.

East is the direction toward which the Earth rotates about its axis, and therefore the general direction from which the Sun appears to rise. The practice of praying towards the East is older than Christianity, but has been adopted by this religion as the Orient was thought of as containing the mankind's original home. Hence, most Christian churches are oriented towards the east.[1][2]

During the Cold War, "The East" was sometimes used to refer to the Warsaw Pact and Communist China, along with other Communist nations.

Throughout history, the East has also been used by Europeans in reference to the Orient and Asian societies.


The word east is derived from the Proto-Germanic *aus-to- or *austra- "east, toward the sunrise", from Proto-Indo-European language *aus- "to shine," or "dawn".[3] In Middle English, the word is derived from *est, and from Old English *ēast. This is similar to Old High German *ōstar "to the east", Latin *aurora "dawn", and Greek *ēōs or *heōs.[4] Ēostre, a Germanic goddess of dawn, might have been a personification of both dawn and the cardinal points.


  1. ^ "Orientation of Churches". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Peters, Bosco (30 April 2012). "Architectural Design Guidelines 1". Liturgy.co.nz. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "east". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "east". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 3 December 2013.