I'm writing a research proposal in which I frequently reference the cardinal and inter-cardinal (ordinal) directions together. Is there some term, no matter the obscurity, that refers to the eight of them?

If there are any related words that come to mind that don't quite fit (like one that collectively refers to vaguely "major" directions), I would like to hear those as well.

2 Answers 2


According to Wikipedia, you are referring to the points of the compass:

The points of the compass are points on a compass, specifically on the compass rose, marking divisions of the four cardinal directions: North, South, East, West. The number of points may be only the 4 cardinal points, or the 8 principal points adding the intercardinal (or ordinal) directions northeast (NE), southeast (SE), southwest (SW), and northwest (NW). In meteorological usage further intermediate points are added to give the sixteen points of a wind compass.[1] Finally, at the most complete in European tradition, are found the full thirty-two points of the mariner's compass. In ancient China 24 points of the compass were used.

(emphasis mine)

  • 2
    Based on that entry, "principal points" sounds like the closest term to fit what I'm asking. Too bad it seems its usage is relatively inconsistent in different contexts and disciplines. "Points of the compass" is a certainly better phrase than I could invent, but it is unfortunate that the number of directions to which it potentially refers is between four and thirty-two. Thanks for your help!
    – asterac
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 9:52
  • Principal points is, from what I have seen, usually the four cardinal points (that is more or less a synonym anyway). To find a better term that exactly describes those 8 points and nothing else will be a real challenge, as we are talking about a very small area of extremely specialised use of compass directions :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 11:24
  • How's "the eight non-interstitial points" for you? Commented May 7, 2014 at 13:35
  • @Duckisaduckisaduck It's more specific, but I don't like the idea of referring to something by process of elimination, especially when the interstitial points are named in reference to my points. It's "not unlike" the "not unblack dog" of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." Look for my points outside of their own interstices, why don't you?
    – asterac
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 4:52
  • I agree, it's an horrible expression. Chomsky has much to answer for. It looks as if we might need a new word for them. Commented May 8, 2014 at 15:15

On the Wikipedia page for Points of the compass they refer to:

The eight principal winds (or main winds) are the set union of the cardinals and intercardinals. Taken in turn, each is 45° from the next. These form the 8-wind compass rose, the rose at its usual basic level today.

So I suppose "eight principal winds" or at least "eight-wind" might be usable terms, although I feel including "wind" in the term makes it less clear that it's related to a compass direction.

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