Old English norð- (in compounds) "northern, lying to the north" (adj.); norð (adv.) "northwards, to the north, in the north;" from Proto-Germanic *nurtha- (source also of Old Norse norðr, Old Saxon north, Old Frisian north, Middle Dutch nort, Dutch noord, German nord), which is probably an IE word, but of uncertain origin.
It might be ultimately from PIE *ner- (1) "left," also "below" (source also of Sanskrit narakah "hell," Greek neretos "deeper, lower down," enerthen "from beneath," Oscan-Umbrian nertrak "left"), as north is to the left when one faces the rising sun. The same notion apparently underlies Old Irish tuath "left; northern;" Arabic shamal "left hand; north." Compare Benjamin. Or perhaps the notion is that the sun is at its "lowest" point when in the north.
The usual word for "north" in the Romance languages ultimately is from English: Old French north (Modern French nord), borrowed from Old English norð; and Italian nord, Spanish norte, borrowed from French.
As a noun, "the northern cardinal point or direction," late 12c., from the adjective. From c. 1200 as "the north part of Britain, the region beyond the Humber." Generally, then "a region lying north of some other region." In U.S. history, "the states and territories north of Maryland and the Ohio River" (by 1796).
The geographical North Pole is attested from mid-15c. (earlier the Arctic pole, late 14c.; north pole in astronomy for "the fixed zenith of the celestial sphere" is from late 14c.). North American (n.) was used in 1766 by Franklin; as an adjective from 1770.
Ask where's the North? At York 'tis on the Tweed;
In Scotland at the Orcades; and there
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where.
[Pope, "Essay on Man"]
Middle English North-se, from Old English norþsæ, norðsæ, usually meaning "the Bristol Channel" (see north + sea). The application to the body of waternow so called, east of England (late 13c.) is from Dutch (Noordzee, Middle Dutch Noortzee); it lies to the north of Holland, where it was contrasted with the inland Zuider Zee, literally "Southern Sea"). To the Danes, it sometimes was Vesterhavet "West Sea." In English, this had been typically called the "German Sea" or "German Ocean," which follows the Roman name for it, Oceanus Germanicus. "German" persisted on some British maps at least into the 1830s. North Sea in Middle English also could mean "the northern portion of the ocean believed to surround the earth" (late 14c.).
"Pole Star, Polaris," Middle English norþe sterre (late 14c.); cognate with Middle Dutch noirdstern, German Nordstern.
sometimes nor'easter, "gale or wind blowing from the northeast," 1794, from northeast.
also north-east, "point or direction midway between north and east," Old English norþ-east; see north + east. As an adjective, "pertaining to or proceeding from or toward the northeast," by 1739. Related: Northeastern "pertaining to or in the direction of the northeast" (late 14c.); northeastward (1550s); northeasterly (1743).
Latinized form of the name of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Norðhymbre, which lay north of the river Humber (Latin Humbri fluminis, c. 720), an ancient pre-English river name of unknown origin. It was the leading power of England during part of the 7c. and 8c. Related: Northumbrian. The Northumbrians seem at times to have referred to the Mercians as Southumbrians. The English county name of Northumberland is attested from c. 1200 (North-humbre-lond).
county in East Anglia, England, late 14c., earlier Norþfolc, Nordfolc, 1066, literally "(Territory of the) Northern People (of the East Angles);" see north + folk (n.). The Norfolk pine (1778), used as an ornamental tree, is from Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, northwest of New Zealand, where it is native.