South vs. Southern – What’s the Difference? (With Examples)

The terms “south” and “southern” are often thought of as sharing similar meanings. Because of this, folks can often become confused as to what the proper context to use each of these terms is. This article will highlight the differences between these two terms and when they should be used.

South vs. Southern – What’s The Difference?

The main difference between the terms “south” and “southern” is that the term “south” is a noun and an adjective, while the term “southern” is only an adjective. This means that while seemingly similar, these two terms are used in entirely different ways and carry different definitions.

South vs. Southern

We will use a noun as the identifier of a person, place, thing, or idea. On the other hand, we use adjectives to describe nouns or the characteristics of a noun.


As the term “south” is both a noun and an adjective, it can be used in multiple ways. As a noun, the term “south” is used to describe one of the four compass points – specifically, the opposite of the north or towards the part of the earth below the equator.

As an adjective, “south” is defined as being situated toward or at the “south”, or coming from the south.

We will now go over a few examples of how to appropriately use the term “south” in a sentence:


  1. The heavy wind and rainfall came from the south.
  2. He was staying in the south of Italy.
  3. The points of a compass are north, east, west, and south.
  4. We spent our holidays in the south of California.


  1. The south coast is beautiful this time of year.
  2. I love to visit South Toronto, as there are many amazing restaurants.
  3. These plants grow excellently in a south-facing window.
  4. South Africa is on my bucket list of places I would love to visit.


The term “southern” is defined as being situated in the “south”, directed towards, or facing the south. It can also be used to describe the “southern” hemisphere, to be living in or originating from the “south”. Using the term “southern” in any of these contexts is considered to be correct.

We will now look over a few examples that showcase how to correctly use the term “southern” in a sentence:

  1. My grandfather has a thick southern accent and a drawl.
  2. She grew up living in the Southern Hemisphere, so she has never seen snow.
  3. The ship was steering towards the southern string of islands.
  4. The southern states fought against the northern states in the war.
  5. Young people have flocked to and taken over southern California.
  6. I would prefer a hotel room with southern exposure, if possible.
  7. She was known as being a southern belle.

Which Is Used The Most – South Or Southern?

As we can see when taking a look at the data provided by Google Ngram Viewer, the term “south” is used more often than the term “southern”. This has been the case from the beginning of the 1900s, into the present day.

South vs. Southern english usage

This may be attributed to the fact that the term “south” does have more uses, as it can be used as both a noun and an adjective. It may also be due to the fact that the term “south” is used directionally and to describe select areas. It’s worth noting that the use of “south” is not as common today, as it once was – facing a steady decline from the 1900s on.

On the other hand, the term “southern” has been used quite consistently throughout the 1900s, into the present day. This may be due to the fact that the term “southern” has often been used to describe people, food, accents, etc., that have originated from the “south”.

South Of vs. Southern

The term “south of” is often used in a comparative directional sense, or to describe something that is lesser than something else, whereas “southern” is used to describe the direction towards or facing the “south”, or the “southern” hemisphere – making the use of these two terms very different.

We will now go over some examples of how these two terms are used differently and appropriately in a sentence:

South Of:

  1. She makes a little south of $75,000 a year.
  2. He lives south of the border, so I have to travel to visit him.
  3. The state of Florida is south of New York state.
  4. That restaurant is a mile south of here.


  1. The southern hemisphere is far warmer than the northern hemisphere.
  2. He is from Texas, so he has a very thick southern accent.
  3. She was mimicking her cousin’s southern accent.
  4. Brighton is in the southern part of England.