Meaning of Compass

What is Compass:

A compass is an orientation instrument, which allows the traveler to locate himself spatially with respect to magnetic north by means of a magnetized needle. It is a fundamental instrument for sailors, hikers, pilots, hunters, explorers, etc.


The first compass emerged in China. It was used primarily as a navigational instrument that allowed overseas travelers to orient themselves in space and define the path to follow, but it was not infallible. Over time, other compass systems were developed.

parts of a compass

There are various types of compasses. All of them basically share three fundamental elements: a base with a ruler and a reference arrow; a limb or graduated disc that rotates on its own axis and a magnetized needle that points north.

compass types

Today there are many varieties of compasses available, as the systems have been perfected with the advancement of technology. Within the basic range of compasses, the following can be mentioned:

magnetic compass

The magnetic compass, the oldest of all, allows orientation through the magnetized needle system that points towards the magnetic north pole of the earth, that is, from the identification of the earth’s magnetic field.

gyro compass

The gyroscopic compass or gyrocompass always looks to the geographic north and not to the magnetic one, since it uses a set of rings and a disk aligned according to a rotation axis, the inner and outer axis, which are perpendicular to each other.

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Other types of compasses can be the limbo compass, lens compass, cartographic compass, electronic compass and mobile phone compass. The latter depends on the availability of the network in the place of exploration, so it can be insecure.

See also GPS.