The term the North is often used to refer to the wealthy and technologically advanced nations of the world, as opposed to the South, which is poorer and less developed. In some cases the compass direction north is not accurate; Australia is in this sense a Northern country, even though it is south of the equator.

In the study of politics and international relations, the term the North is often used as a more theoretically coherent replacement for the earlier notion of the West.

The term the North can also be used to indicate the northern part of a particular country or geographical region. Within that region, if places with a common characteristic are mostly found in the north, then the North becomes a synonym for that characteristic.

  • Italy is one of several countries with a north-south divide where the wealthier regions are in the north. The North is the richer industrial and commercial heartland of the country, whilst the South is mainly agricultural. Lega Nord (the Northern League) campaign for the secession of northern Italy from the rest of the country.

  • In England, by contrast, the North is relatively poor. It is the home of many of the traditional heavy industries that have much run-down in recent years.

  • In the United States of America the North is used to refer to those states which did not secede at the time of the American Civil War. It also indicates a wealthier half of the country, mainly because the manufacturing facilities more popular in the North benefited greatly from the Industrial Revolution, as opposed to the mostly agricultural South.

  • In Canada the North refers to the arctic region, as opposed to the southern areas close to the border with the United States. The North is usually understood as the Yukon, Northwest Territories, northern parts of British Columbia, and Nunavut, which is populated mostly by First Nations and Inuit. It can also refer to the northern parts of some of the provinces.