Compass directions in Catalan
Looking over a plan of the Sagrada Família Sunday, I discovered that
the names of the cardinal directions are interesting.
Nord (north). Okay, this is straightforward. It's borrowed from
French, which for some reason seems to have borrowed from English.
Llevant (east). This one is fun. As in Spanish, llevar is “to
rise”, from Latin levāre which also gives us “levity” and
“levitate”. Llevant is the east, where the sun rises.
This is also the source of the English name “Levant” for the lands
to the east, in the Eastern Mediterranean. I enjoy the way this is
analogous to the use of the word “Orient” for the lands even farther
to the east: Latin orior is “to rise” or “to get up”. To orient a
map is to turn it so that the correct (east) side is at the top, and
to orient yourself is (originally) to figure out which way is east.
Migdia (south). The sun again. Migdia is analogous to
“midday”. (Mig is “mid” and dia is “day”.) And indeed, the
south is where the sun is at midday.
Ponent (west). This is ultimately from Latin ponens, which
means putting down or setting down. It's where the sun sets.
Bonus unrelated trivia: The Russian word for ‘north’ is се́вер
(/séver/), which refers to the cold north wind, and is also the source
of the English word “shower”.
[Other articles in category /lang/etym]