The word north is related to the Old High German nord, both descending from the Proto-Indo-European unit ner-, meaning "down" (or "under"). (Presumably a natural primitive description of its concept is "to the left of the rising sun".)
Latin borealis is from Greek boreas "north wind, north", in mythology (according to Ovid) personified as the son of the river-god Strymon, and father of Calais and Zetes; septentrionalis is from septentriones, "the seven plow oxen", a name of Ursa Maior. Greek arktikos "northern" is named for the same constellation (cf. Arctic).
Other languages have sometimes more interesting derivations. For example, in Lezgian kefer can mean both 'disbelief' and 'north', since north of Muslim Lezgians there are areas inhabited by non-Muslim (until recently) Caucasian peoples, such as Avars and Chechens; as well as pagan Turkic peoples. In many languages of Mesoamerica, 'north' also means 'up'. In Hungarian the word for North is "észak" which is derived from "éjszaka" (night) as on the Northern Hemisphere the Sun never shines from North, therefore it's a realm of night.
Read more about this topic: North
Famous quotes containing the word etymology:
“The universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express the things of the mind and spirit. The order of ideas must follow the order of things.”
—Giambattista Vico (16881744)
“Semantically, taste is rich and confusing, its etymology as odd and interesting as that of style. But while stylederiving from the stylus or pointed rod which Roman scribes used to make marks on wax tabletssuggests activity, taste is more passive.... Etymologically, the word we use derives from the Old French, meaning touch or feel, a sense that is preserved in the current Italian word for a keyboard, tastiera.”
—Stephen Bayley, British historian, art critic. Taste: The Story of an Idea, Taste: The Secret Meaning of Things, Random House (1991)