Meaning of Compass


From the Italian bussola, a compass is an instrument that, thanks to presenting a magnetized needle that rotates on an axis and points to magnetic north, allows us to determine the directions of the earth’s surface.

According to DigoPaul, there are several compasses that are very important and well known and that have been that way throughout the ages. This would be the case, for example, of the famous Jerusalem Compass, which was and is the one that Jews use to know in which direction the mentioned Holy City is located and thus undertake their prayers looking towards that place.

Precisely, within the religious sphere, and with characteristics very similar to the previous one, we also find the so-called Quibla Compass. In this case, it is used by Muslims to know where Mecca is and thus make their prayers in the direction of it.

However, we could also speak, for example, of the so-called magnetic compass, which is one that is defined by being made up of several magnetized needles that rotate absolutely freely. And in the same way we find the gyroscopic compass which, as its name suggests, is one that consists of a horizontal gyroscope that is responsible for determining the meridian.

Historians believe that the compass was invented in China during the 9th century. At first it consisted of a magnetized needle floating inside a container of water, although, over time, the size of the device was reduced to be able to move it more comfortably. Thus arose the axis on which the needle rotates and a compass rose (also known as a nautical rose) was added to calculate directions.

Compasses have remained almost unchanged over time. Some, for example, began to include lighting. However, today, satellite navigation systems (such as GPS) have overtaken compasses as they offer greater precision and more data. In any case, compasses continue to be used in the event of possible damage to more complex systems and in places where there is no electricity or the possibility of replacing batteries.

It is important to note that the magnetic north that the compass needle points to is different from geographic north and varies according to the region of the planet. At the poles, both north and south, compasses are useless since there the lines of force of the Earth’s magnetic field converge.

In addition to all this, we have to make it clear that within the cinema there are several films that have the word that we are dealing with in their title. Specifically, one of the most important and most successful worldwide in recent years is “The Golden Compass”. It was in 2007 when it was released, which is an adaptation of the first part of the fantastic literary saga called “Dark Matter”, by Philip Pullman.

The concept of compass can be used metaphorically to refer to a person or object that helps someone: “My wife is the compass that allows me not to stray from my goal”, “The Bible is the compass that guides my steps”.