Compass Rose


Cartographers put a compass rose on a map so that you can see where things are located in relation to another.

A compass rose can be a simple 4 Point with just the 4 cardinal directions that we learned in the previous video: North, South, East, and West.

You can also further divide those directions into what we call Intercardinal, or Ordinal Directions. By creating an 8 Point compass rose.

These show the directions directly in the middle of the four main directions, or cardinal directions.

So, in between North and East, would be North East, written as NE a lot of times. 

Between East and South you would get South East, written as SE.

Between South and West you would get South West, written as SW.

And between West and North you would get North West, written as North West.

Notice that North or South always went in the front here. West and East always came second.

But there are more ways to divide a compass.

You can do a  12 point, or 16 point compass rose.

You could also get a 32 point.

Each of these divide the direction into more and more precise intermediate directions. Intermediate basically meaning in the middle.

Notice the more we divide it the more it does appear to look like a rose.

Cartophers even began to make compass roses more and more decorative and beautiful too.

So to recap, these are your cardinal directions,

These are your ordinal, or intercardinal directions.

As you divide these more you may hear them called intermediate directions.

Beyond knowing what the directions are though, you have to know how to use the compass. 

Cartographers always add a compass to a map, but many people do not look at them because they already know the directions.

But remember that just because you know the directions by heart, doesn’t mean you know how the cartographer used the compass on the map that they made.

We often assume that the north is up. 

But you will not have to look too hard to find a map where the compass is turned a bit and you will see North is at an angle and you might feel the need to run the map.

Sometimes it’s worse than just at an angle though. Sometimes North points down and you may feel the need to flip the map over entirely.

Why do you think a cartographer would a map like this?

Related Articles


When looking up the word cartograph in a dictionary you will find it means a map or chart.

So, essentially a cartograph is a map

The etymology, the origin, or how the word was created comes from ancient Greek

The Carto part of the word comes from this


Which I can’t read — but my research shows it’s pronounced like “khártēs”