What are Latitudes and Longitudes?

Latitude & Longitude - These are imaginary lines drawn on the globe.

latitudes and longitudes

Lines running east and west, parallel to the equator - These are called Lines/Parallels of latitude.

Lines running north and south passing through the poles - These are called Lines/Meridians of longitude

The intersection of latitude and longitude pin-points any place on the earth’s surface.

Table of Contents
  • Latitude
  • Longitude
  • Coordinates


Latitude - angular distance (in degrees) of a point on the earth’s surface from the centre of the earth.

latitude angular distance

  • Latitude lines or Parallels are parallel to the equator.
  • They are circles which get smaller polewards.
  • The equator represents 0° and the North and South Poles are 90°N and 90°S.
  • Average linear distance of a degree of latitude = 69 miles (111 km)
  • As the earth is slightly flattened at the poles, the linear distance of a degree of latitude at the pole is a little longer than that at the equator.
  • Each degree is sub-divided into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds.

The most important lines of latitude:

important latitudes


Longitude - angular distance (in degrees) of a place east or west of the Prime Meridian.

Prime Meridian / Greenwich Meridian

Zero meridian (0°) passes through the Royal Astronomical Observatory at Greenwich, near London.

All other meridians radiate eastward and westwards up to 180° from Prime Meridian. longitudes

  • Lines of longitude/Meridians are a series of semi-circles that run from pole to pole (in a north-south direction) passing through the equator at right angles.
  • Unlike latitudes, they are all equal in length.
  • 1° of longitude = 69.1 miles at the equator and 1° of longitude = 0 miles at the poles.
  • They determine local time in relation to Greenwich Mean Time (G.M.T.)/World Time.


The combination of meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude establishes a framework or grid.

Using this grid we can determine exact positions of any place in reference to the Prime meridian and the Equator.

To provide a geographic location of a place using latitude and longitude - Coordinates are used.   

  • The latitude has the symbol of phi (Φ) & the longitude has the symbol of lambda (λ). coordinates

  • Latitude is always written first.

For example:
A point - 40° N, 30° E
It will be located 40° north of the Equator and 30° east of the Prime meridian.

To be even more precise - we should use minutes, and seconds along with degrees.
A point - 40° 35′ 26′′ N, 30° 12′ 38′′ E

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