Latitude vs. Longitude – What’s the Difference?

If you look at a globe or a map of the Earth, you might see horizontal and vertical lines that intersect each other and form a grid-like pattern. Some of them may have numbers printed near them.

These are called latitude and longitude lines. Their true purpose is to measure distance from a predetermined line of centrality.

These measures are useful in navigation, geography, and many hobbies, like hunting and geocaching. You will always want to make sure you are using the right word, so that you don’t become hopelessly lost on your next adventure.

What is the Difference Between Latitude and Longitude?

In this article, I will compare latitude vs. longitude. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so that you can see it in context.

Plus, I will give you a useful tool that you can use to help you remember whether to use latitude or longitude next time you can’t remember the differences between these terms.

When to Use Latitude

latitude versus longitude meaningWhat does latitude mean? Latitude is a measurement of distance north or south of the equator, expressed in degrees and minutes.

This word is a noun. It can also be used figuratively to describe freedom of action or thought, much like leeway and wiggle room.

Here are some examples,

  • The parameters of Edward’s new job afforded him considerable latitude to set his own hours.
  • At higher latitudes, the Earth’s temperature drops significantly.
  • The Mason-Dixon line is located at a latitude of 39 degrees North.
  • While he gave the generals wide latitude, he remained curious, focused, well-informed and critical to the Union’s military success. –The Washington Post

When to Use Longitude

Definition of longitude definition and definition of latitude definitionWhat does longitude mean? Longitude is also a noun. It refers to a measurement of distance east or west of the Earth’s prime meridian.

I have included a few examples below,

  • “Class, who can tell me the longitude of the Bermuda Triangle?” the teacher asked.
  • The king declared the country’s new eastern border to be located at a longitude of 45 degrees east.
  • Sherry used her GPS device to determine the exact longitude of her current position.
  • For Britain, the maritime power of the day, the question of the time was an important one: at sea, without landmarks to determine longitude and without a stable surface on which to rest a pendulum, it can be hard to tell time precisely. –Time

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define longitude and define latitudeHere is a helpful trick to remember longitude vs. latitude.

Both of these words are used in geography and cartography, which makes them confusing. If you look at a map of the Earth,

  • Latitude lines are horizontal.
  • Longitude lines are vertical.

Latitude shares an A with equator, the horizontal marker that is perpendicular to the axis of the Earth’s rotation, and the point from which latitudes are measured. Since these words are both spelled with A, you should be able to remember that latitude lines are positioned horizontally, parallel to the equator.


Is it latitude or longitude? Latitude and longitude refer to measures of relative distance.

  • Latitude refers to distance north or south in relation to the equator.
  • Longitude measures distance east of west of the prime meridian.

These terms are confusing, but since latitude and equator both contain the letter A, you should find it easy to remember that latitude lines are parallel to the equator.

Don’t forget, you can always check this website any time you have questions regarding similar words or other confusing topics in writing. If you ever need help choosing longitude or latitude, you can revisit this article.