When you google "latitude/longitude" you get 10 times more results than "longitude/latitude". This I find very confusing as "x/y" seems 20 times more common than "y/x". But on a map Latitude is on the Y axis and longitude on the X.

Any explanations?

  • 8
    possible duplicate of LatLon or LonLat, what's the "right" way to display coordinates and inputs?
    – underdark
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 7:37
  • 1
    @underdark is a duplicate question - 2 votes to close
    – Mapperz
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 13:47
  • 5
    While similar, I don't think this is a duplicate question. The first asks "What is the right way?" while this question (I believe) asks "Why is this the right way?". A subtle, but important difference.
    – Don Meltz
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 14:28

4 Answers 4


I'm not an expert in this area, but I have done some reading on the subject, particularly on its history. I think the reason is: Accurate measurement of latitude came first as it was based on astronomical measurements. Longitude was not accurately measurable until a highly accurate time measuring device was developed.


Latitude was first used as a measurement in around 600 BC by the Phoenicians using the pole star as a reference. Longitude did not come into general use until the invention of the Harrison marine chronometer in 1760. International Standard ISO 6709 quotes "Latitude comes before longitude".


While this has always bugged me, I had never stopped to think about it too much. Perhaps the solution lies in recognizing that this is a false comparison. We are used to seeing latitude and longitude marked on paper maps, tempting us to think of these as planar (Cartesian) coordinates. However, they are not; the paper (planar) map is a projection of spherical coordinates, and spherical coordinates are generally written as radius, inclination, and azimuth (at least in physics.) In fact, the order radius, inclination, azimuth is codified in ISO 31-11. Geographers don't need the radius (or to the extent they do, they use elevation/altitude, which is the deviation from the nominal radius of the earth), so we just have inclination (latitude) and azimuth (longitude). From this perspective, latitude/longitude is perfectly rational.


see...the reason why latitude (Y-Axis) is written before longitude (X-Axis) is because of the measuring method of position. In the map...we will start from the north pole to equate the distance against equator it means vertically and then we go horizontally to equate the distance from prime meridian. Therefore we write latitude first and then longitude. and you are absolutely right when you will map sphere as 2d map....latitude lines are running on x-axis and longitude lines are running on y-axis therefore as well latitude is written first (x) and then longitude is written (y) +

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