Old English norð "northern" (adj.), "northwards" (adv.), from Proto-Germanic *nurtha- (source also of Old Norse norðr, Old Saxon north, Old Frisian north, Middle Dutch nort, Dutch noord, German nord), possibly ultimately from PIE *ner- (1) "left," also "below," as north is to the left when one faces the rising sun (source also of Sanskrit narakah "hell," Greek enerthen "from beneath," Oscan-Umbrian nertrak "left"). The same notion underlies Old Irish tuath "left; northern;" Arabic shamal "left hand; north." The usual word for "north" in the Romance languages ultimately is from English, for example Old French north (Modern French nord), borrowed from Old English norð; Italian nord, Spanish norte are borrowed from French.

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"]

As a noun, c. 1200, from the adverb. North Pole attested from mid-15c. (earlier the Arctic pole, late 14c.). North American (n.) first used 1766, by Franklin; as an adjective, from 1770.