Ireland’s Cardinal Directions

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Similar to the Indians and the Hebrews, Ireland originally expressed the cardinal directions with regard to the rising sun. That is, the main point of reference for all the directions would have been East, such that:

  • East = Forward
  • South = Right
  • North = Left
  • West = Behind

Even though we no longer orient our maps to reflect this convention, the language still bears it out in some ways.*

If someone tells you to seas siar (stand to the west), they mean to stand back. The word Deas means both Right and South.

Unfortunately, the words for Left (Clé) and North (Tuaisceart) have diverged, so Northern Ireland can not be appropriately called Leftern Ireland.



* The concepts of Relative Directions (Left, Right, Forward, Backward) and Cardinal Directions (North, East, South, West) were much more closely linked in Old Irish and Middle Irish.

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