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south (south)
1. Abbr. S
a. The direction along a meridian 90° clockwise from east; the direction to the right of sunrise.
b. The cardinal point on the mariner's compass 180° clockwise from due north and directly opposite north.
2. An area or region lying in the south.
3. often South
a. The southern part of the earth.
b. The set of developing nations of the world, largely located to the south of the developed nations of the Northern Hemisphere.
c. The southern part of a region or country.
4. South The southern part of the United States, especially the states that fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
5. The side of a church which is to the right as one faces the altar. Also called liturgical south.
1. To, toward, of, facing, or in the south.
2. Originating in or coming from the south: a hot south wind.
1. In, from, or toward the south.
2. Slang Into a worse or inferior condition, as of decreased value: a stock that went south shortly after he bought it. "If a life could be redeemed in a moment, it could go south just as fast" (Roy Parvin).

[Middle English, from Old English sūth; see sāwel- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Word History: When observed from the ground in the Northern Hemisphere, the path that the sun travels in the daytime lies generally in the southern half of the sky. For this reason, the sunny side of a hill or a house in the Northern Hemisphere is the south side, and this fact about the sun is reflected in the origin of the English word "south" itself. "South" in Old English was sūth, which developed from an earlier *sunth. (As Old English developed from its Germanic ancestor, an *n within a word was dropped before the sound *th, and the preceding vowel was lengthened in compensation.) The form *sunth developed from a still earlier Germanic *sunthaz, literally meaning something like "sunny, besunned," and the first element in this word, *sun-, means "sun." The same element can also still be found in Modern English sun, from Old English sunne. As the first word in compounds, Old English sūth, "south," was subject to shortening, and it shows up in Modern English pronounced (sŭ). This is seen in place names like Suffolk (where the "south folk" were; compare Norfolk), Sutton, "south town," and Sussex, the location of the "South Saxons" (whose eastern and western cousins were located in Essex and Wessex, respectively).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.