In the context of traveling, I have heard of and used the phrase "coming down" when referring to a journey from one place to another place that is further south. Perhaps, it's because I have always related the "down" part to "from north to south". For example:

My cousin in New York is coming down to visit me (in Atlanta) next week.

Recently, a friend of mine used the phrase to refer to any journey regardless of the direction of travel. For example:

She is coming down from Miami to join us in Atlanta.

Is the phrase used only to refer to traveling south? Or is it not related to the direction?

  • 2
    Related question here. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 21:46
  • @Brian Hooper: I think it's basically the same question. Closevoting as a dup. Of course, you can reasonably go up to Oxford even if you live north of it. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 22:53
  • @FumbleFingers No, it is not a dupe. That is only about London, not about English in general.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 23:16
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers I disagree. The other question relates specifically to "going up/down to London", which has it's own specific terminology in some instances, as mentioned in the question. I was taught that one always goes up to London, wherever in England you start from.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 23:17
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    @TrevorD: I'm also south (we could be close neighbours!), but many decades ago my girlfriend's parents lived in Rickmansworth (just north), and they used to go up to London. I'm not going to go analysing and counting all the answers on the earlier question, but I think the top-voted one somewhat specifically addresses the special case of up/down trains. And at a cursory glance many of the rest seem to support my assertion that any principle of usage here is at best a tendency. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 0:10

2 Answers 2


Normally going down refers to travelling south, just as going up normally refers to travelling north. That’s why it’s called Upstate New York: because it is north of the core metro area. That’s what makes it up: the north part. It almost always works this way.

Almost — but not always. When you live in the mountains, these things take on a more literal meaning, because altitude’s Z-axis is a lot more important there than the X- and Y-axes of longitude and latitude.

For example, if I go up to Nederland Colorado from down in Boulder — which is something people say and do all the time — that means travelling west from here, not travelling south. It’s also 3,000 thousand feet higher, which is all that counts in these parts. It’s up because it’s, um, up.

But flatlanders, lacking a significant Z-axis, always use up and down to correspond to north and south. (They forget the times when maps were oriented to the east. :)

For a completely different take on up, see the Uptown of various cities.

  • On Long Island in New York, traveling from the Eastern End to the west (actually WSW), you are said to be going up island (accompanied by a mild sneer). There is a similar configuration on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. This may be based on the concept of going down to the sea. In both of these cases, the seafaring communities are on the extreme east ends (including the norther parts of those east ends).
    – bib
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 23:50
  • Don't forget about the Upper and Lower Nile. That always confused me. And of course, the Devil went down to Georgia, which could be understood to mean south or in terms of elevation (down to the underworld). Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 2:34

What "comes down" to my mind when I read "to come down" is something descending from above ("up and down"), instead of "north and south". Therefore, I think it's just a colloquial expression when used in a context of travel. (It does not literally means "to go to the south").

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    It may be worth noting, however, that the phrases "go down" and "go up" do generally indicate direction. A U.S. resident, for example, would typically speak of "going up to Toronto" or "going down to Mexico," but not vice versa. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 21:22
  • So, what is your interpretation of it in the context of travel? Is it air travel because an airplane "descends from above"?
    – pnvn
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 21:24
  • One could "go up to Toronto by using an Airplane", or could "go up to the sky by using an Airplane". I think that the first one is more "colloquial" and less literal. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 21:28
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    @pvn: Tempting as that etymology may sound, the phrase actually antedates air travel by more than two centuries. See, for example, its use in the diary of Samuel Pepys on 26 June 1661. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 21:41
  • Hey how come in Portuguese only orientar and nortear exist, but no sulear or ocidentar? :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 23:37

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