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East is a direction in geography. It is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points, opposite of west and at right angles to north and south. East is the direction toward which the Earth rotates about its axis, and therefore the general direction from which the Sun appears to rise. However, in astronomy the east side of the sun is defined opposite with respect to the rotation direction, so it is the direction from which it rotates.


O.E. east, from P.Gmc. *aus-to-, *austra- "east, toward the sunrise" (cf. Du. oost, Ger. Ost, O.N. austr "from the east"), from PIE *aus- "dawn" (cf. Skt. ushas "dawn," Gk. aurion "morning," O.Ir. usah, Lith. auszra "dawn," L. aurora "dawn," auster "south"), lit. "to shine." The east is the direction in which dawn breaks. For shift in sense in L., see Australia. Meaning "the eastern part of the world" (from Europe) is from c.1300. Cold War use of East for "communist states" first recorded 1951. Natives of eastern Germany and the Baltics were known as easterlings 16c.-18c. The east wind in Biblical Palestine was scorching and destructive (cf. Ezek. xvii.10).

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