The 30-year fixed rate mortgage has run north of 6% all year.

I saw the sentence from here. In my opinion, the word 'north' is a slang usage as defined in the free dictionary:

Slang, Into a better condition, as of increased value: an investment that went steadily north until the market crash.

But I'm not 100% sure about it. Can anyone help me with it?

  • 5
    This metaphoric use of "north of..." isn't about better condition - it's just higher (North is always at the top of the map). May 3, 2023 at 23:46

1 Answer 1


In that context, "north of" means "above" or "higher than".

You won't necessarily find it in dictionaries because it plays on the universal understanding that north is up, so if something is "north of 6%", it must be higher than 6%.

  • 2
    I see. And do we really use the word 'south' for the opposite concept, e.g. run south of 6%?
    – dan
    May 4, 2023 at 0:00
  • 11
    Yes, we can use "south" to mean "less than" or "under". It's less common, and almost always has a negative feeling about it, so while we might talk about voter turnout rates going south of X% (a bad thing), we'd never talk about suicide rates "going south of " X% (a good thing).
    – gotube
    May 4, 2023 at 0:25
  • 2
    I'm not sure south is always used in a negative sense. Pretty sure I've heard it used recently to describe the unemployment rates dipping below some value. It is usually negative, but I think there are exceptions. May 4, 2023 at 15:00
  • The figurative meaning is found in the OED: " Higher; esp. in north of (a figure, cost, etc.): higher than, in excess of".
    – Schmuddi
    May 4, 2023 at 17:09
  • 3
    I don't think e.g. "south of 6%^ means bad, but this is complicated a little because there is the related phrase "it went south from there" which is unequivocally a bad thing
    – Yorik
    May 4, 2023 at 18:35

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