Is "clockwisality" a valid word for discussing whether something is clockwise or anti-clockwise? If not, what words if any can express this?

For example,

In the context of the anime "Bleach", which clockwisality should the swastika be? Should it be "卍" or "卐"?

One possibility I can think of is using "clockwiseness", but the resulting sentence is awkward:

In the context of the anime "Bleach", does the swastika have clockwiseness?

to me may indicate it has clockwiseness, anticlockwiseness, or neither.

  • 3
    The usual word for this is "sense" - but there needs to be enough context to distinguish this from other meanings of "sense".
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 13, 2015 at 23:58
  • 4
    OED, s.v. sense, definition 29b: "Chiefly Math. That which distinguishes a pair of entities which differ only in that each is the reverse of the other." I certainly recognise the "sense" of a rotation. Another word is "chirality".
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 14, 2015 at 0:06
  • 3
    Just say "which direction should the swastika point?" Forget about trying to invent a new word or convert an established one, or use math or physics terms. Nov 14, 2015 at 0:14
  • 1
  • 6
    Before there were round clocks the opposite direction (now "counterclockwise") was more prominent. The word for that direction was widdershins. The counterpart of "clockwise" is deasil. See the Deixis Lectures for more on the subject. Nov 14, 2015 at 0:32

9 Answers 9


In mathematics, the word orientation is used to talk about clockwise versus counterclockwise. Using this, one might phrase your question as:

How are the arms of the swastika oriented?


Which orientation do the arms of the swastika have?

The word "direction" can also be used to similar effect, although it is more general.


A chemist would formally call it chirality in a molecule and, by exentsion, there'd be a high-likelihood of chirality being used for similar phenomena in the sciences and other formal contexts.

More informally (such as here) it would be known as handedness, with right-handed, at least in the case of a shape like a swastika, likely denoting clockwise rotation. The "right" also has etymological connections to more obscure words for clockwise (eg dextrorotation).

A conversation might plausibly be:

  • What is the handedness of swastikas used in Bleach?
  • They're right-handed.
  • Awkward.

There are also many exciting, obscure words used for clockwise and counterclockwise, which have often made their way into English from other languages or have survived, damaged and wheezing, into modern dictionaries. But few are in common use outside jargon, ritual, humour, picturesque settings, etc.

  • 1
    Would a chemist refer to this as chirality? Clockwise refers to a direction of movement. Nov 14, 2015 at 1:04
  • 4
    The clarifying example given by the questioner, of the swastika, does not refer to physical movement, but to a movement implied by a transformation between superimposable states to distinguish between organisations. This is exactly one use of the word chirality used in the sciences. If we're talking about running round a church clockwise taking you to fairyland, it would be incongruous to talk of the handedness or chirality of your run. But comparing shapes to distinguish mirror images (where the movement is in the eye of the beholder), this is the terminology often used.
    – Dan
    Nov 14, 2015 at 1:10
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    I'm a bit lost here, Michael. As I understand it from your other comments to other answers, you know what chirality means in a technical context, but your comment immediately above to me exactly describes the distinction between a chiral and non-chiral centre (why a Maltese cross is not chiral, for example). So something must be being lost in our communication. The rules for R/S notation of chirality, for example, precisely invoke this idea of clockwise-ness, even when the underlying situation has no inherent "movement" at all, for exactly the purposes described here.
    – Dan
    Nov 14, 2015 at 1:18
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    @DanSheppard so if an ice skater were spinning, would it make sense to talk about her chirality? I'm not so sure. Angular momentum sure, because it is a vector quantity. I think my quibble is using chirality to talk about rotational direction which is what we think of about clocks. There are many molecules and knots that one can't look at and say they are "clockwise" or "anti-clockwise." Nov 14, 2015 at 1:30
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    I think we're probably going to have to agree to disagree on this one. As I've said, I don't consider it natural to talk about the trajectory of a motion as chirality, but do think it is appropriate when comparing configurations and symmetries. It seems to me (but it seems not to you) that this is the sense in which the questioner, given their example, means to use clockwise. The word "clockwise" can be used in both ways and I used the example to disambiguate the sense intended. I think we need to wait for the questioner now.
    – Dan
    Nov 14, 2015 at 1:38

I would use "sense".

Definition 29b for this word, in the Oxford English Dictionary, is "Chiefly Math. That which distinguishes a pair of entities which differ only in that each is the reverse of the other."

The Wikipedia article "Clockwise" contains the phrase "Clocks traditionally follow this sense of rotation"

Another, rather rare, word for it is "chirality".

  • 1
    Chirality is not rare, as it is used almost exclusively by chemists and particle physicist...just recently when talking about graphene, or when talking about the chirality of electrons or molecules. Nov 14, 2015 at 0:51
  • ...maybe rare outside of the science world...if that is what you mean. Nov 14, 2015 at 0:53
  • Also chirality relates to the "handedness" of something, not its rotational direction. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chirality Nov 14, 2015 at 0:59
  • 5
    The problem with "sense", in the sense that the questioner might use it, is that it is such an overloaded word that it is difficult to extract sense from the phrase "What is the sense?" by sensing which sense of sense is being used.
    – Dan
    Nov 14, 2015 at 1:13
  • "rotation(al) sense" or "rotation(al) direction" seem to be common .... Nov 14, 2015 at 11:34

For clockwise and counter-clockwise motion, direction works fine. If you say, "In which direction does the wheel turn?" your meaning will be clear.

However, in the swastika example, I'm not sure you can say that either example is oriented clockwise or counter-clockwise unless it is spinning. These two terms denote motion.

One might consider left- or right-facing, assuming you can discern one from the other.

However, the most likely one would be to define one as the Nazi swastika and the other simply as its mirror image, since this is the most common association with the swastika these days.

  • That's pretty blunt in the last paragraph!
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 14, 2015 at 2:05
  • Well, for the sake of clarity, it's what will clear up the ambiguity. Can you think of a better way to describe it? Nov 14, 2015 at 2:07
  • Despite that association, both forms have traditional usage. Nov 14, 2015 at 2:23
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    Yes, and any educated person is aware of that, but that association is the one that clarifies the direction of the swastika to most people. Nov 14, 2015 at 2:24

Although it's already been mentioned before, I'm going to second handedness.

This is the term used by mechanical engineers.

It's quite common to find notes like this on a drawing:

Headlamp assembly

One required as drawn.

One required opposite hand.

  • 1
    I'm not convinced that engineering drawings should be regarded as font of correctness as far as grammar is concerned!
    – Nicole
    Nov 20, 2015 at 9:19

Wiktionary lists clockwiseness as "The quality of being clockwise." (Source)

However, the fact that none of these forms appear to be in any official dictionary (e.g. Merriam-Webster) implies that there is no generally accepted noun form of "clockwise." Google ngrams returned no results for either term.

If you have to use a single word, I would choose "clockwiseness," which does appear to have some general usage (just google it as evidence).

To be safe, I would go with the phrase "clockwise rotation" (especially in formal writing, where "odd" words would be more likely to be scrutilized).

But, if I had my choice, my vote would be to make clockwise into a noun using the same rules as we use for the word "wise," thus giving us: "clockwisdom." :-)

  • It seems that ngram confirms my feeling that "clockwise direction" is often used.
    – Graffito
    Nov 14, 2015 at 0:10
  • I'm voting up on this as I feel clockwise rotation is commonly understood. Nov 14, 2015 at 1:10

Using clockwise, modified or not by a suffix, in this context is wrong. Clockwise is about direction of motion whereas the OP only wanted to know about the right way round, or orientation, for a swastika. But I'd also like to address the suffix he used, -ality, which is inappropriate anyway.

The suffix is a combination (https://www.wordnik.com/words/-ality) of -al + -ity:

-al (https://www.wordnik.com/words/-al): suffix of or pertaining to; adjectival suffix appended to various words, often nouns, to make an adjective form. Often added to words of Latin origin, but used with other words also.

-ity (https://www.wordnik.com/words/-ity): suffix Used to form a noun from an adjective; especially, to form the noun referring to the state, property, or quality of conforming to the adjective's description.

In the context of the OP, clockwise is an adjective:

clockwise (https://www.wordnik.com/words/clockwise): adj. Moving clockwise; having rotary motion in the manner of a clock.

So, using -ality you would produce an adjective by the use of -al and then a noun by the use of -ity; but the appended word clockwise is already an adjective, so -al is redundant. We are left with -ity, hence clockwisity is a noun. But this is not the way to form a noun from clockwise - as pointed out, -ness is the suffix to use to form a noun: clockwiseness:

-ness (https://www.wordnik.com/words/-ness): suffix Appended to adjectives to form nouns meaning "the state of (the adjective)", "the quality of (the adjective)", or "the measure of (the adjective)".

But even clockwiseness would not do here for the reason already alluded to.


I like truly obscure usages and Patrick O'Brien books. If anyone shares those interests I suggest this from the Oxford Dictionaries.

against the sun

Nautical Against the direction of the sun’s apparent movement in the northern hemisphere; from right to left or counterclockwise.

I think it would be safe to say that "with the sun" would be clockwise.

  • 2
    with the sun would be "widdershins" :)
    – Jasen
    Nov 15, 2015 at 2:56
  • @Jasen Is there a corollary? Anti clockwise could be something like "agindershins" perhaps? Or whatever old english is for "against", since I'm guessing wid = with, der = the and shins = suns.
    – Misneac
    Nov 15, 2015 at 3:04
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    "deasil" is the opposite AFAIK.
    – Jasen
    Nov 15, 2015 at 3:21
  • Makes sense I guess. Maybe from the dexter axial.
    – Misneac
    Nov 15, 2015 at 3:26
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    @sumelic I appreciate the heads up. I like to guess though. It's kind of like a detective novel for me. I like to hazard a guess at the beginning and see if my reasoning is sound. I'll always tell you if I'm guessing though. I'm not gonna rely on my intuition if somebody else is asking, unless they ask for "best guess" ;)
    – Misneac
    Nov 15, 2015 at 21:46

You're over-complicating. "Are they clockwise?" is quite enough. If you wanted to know whether or not they were green, you'd ask "Are they green?" not "Do they have greenness?"

  • OP is not looking for an equivalent to "greenness". He's looking an equivalent to color. Dec 7, 2015 at 7:46
  • +1 for common sense, even if this doesn’t technically qualify as an answer.
    – user205876
    Jan 16, 2020 at 1:07

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