Which Way Is Clockwise?

Learn which way is clockwise, and why do clocks run clockwise.

Updated: February 17, 2022

Are you wondering which way is clockwise and which way is counter-clockwise?

If you're just learning how to tell the time, knowing whether clockwise is left or right is one of the most important things to know. It's one of the fundamental things to learn about clocks before you can learn how to tell time.

But if you already know how to tell the time, you may be wondering, "Why do clocks run clockwise?" and possibly even, "Where does the word clockwise even come from?".

If so, this article is here to help. Within this post, I'll explain which way is clockwise (left or right?), which way is counter-clockwise, and provide an overview of why our clocks run the directions they do.

Which Way Is Clockwise: Left or Right?

To immediately answer this question, clockwise is right. But let's explain what this means in more detail.

What it means when we say clockwise is right is that the hands go around the clock face in a circular motion to the right, not the left.

To provide an example, if the big hand on a clock points to 1 (which represents either 1am or 1pm), then the number 2 (representing 2am or 2pm) will be on the right-hand side of it. As time passes, the clock hand will move to the right from the number 1 to the number 2.

An important thing to remember about clockwise is that people don't always use the term just to describe the way a clock moves. It's also often used to describe which way someone or something needs to turn.

Which Way Is Counter-Clockwise: Left or Right?

Counter-clockwise (also known as anti-clockwise) is to the left. This makes sense because, since clockwise is to the right, counter-clockwise must be the opposite direction.

Here's an example of counter-clockwise. If the big hand on a clock is pointing to the number 3 (representing 3am or 3pm) and it moved counter-clockwise, it would go back to the number 2 (representing 2am or 2pm).

It's important to note however that no clock should ever go around anti-clockwise, as this would make timekeeping inaccurate.

However, many people use the term counter-clockwise to describe which way you need to turn (or rotate) someone, or something not related to clocks. For example, when using a screwdriver.

Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise?

The reason why clocks run clockwise is because this is how sundials work. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow from the gnomon (or pointer) rotates around the base of the sundial to a right rotation.

Since the sundial was one of the first types of clocks to be invented, this set the precedence for all future clocks to run in a clockwise (right) rotation.

This also meant that clocks were considered more accurate in keeping time. Plus, it made telling the time on a clock less confusing as people were already used to sundials rotating to the right as time passed.

Where Does the Word Clockwise Come From?

The term "clockwise" originates from the fact that sundials demonstrate time passing by moving in a right rotation around the base, and people used to refer to this rotation as "sunwise".

When clocks were first invented, they quickly grew in popularity. Naturally, people stopped using the term "sunwise" and labeled the rotation as "clockwise" instead.

This also led to the term counter-clockwise (also known as anti-clockwise) being invented.


To summarise, clockwise explains a rotation to the right and counter-clockwise describes a rotation to the left. Even though the descriptions solely relate to clocks, the terminology is often used to provide instructions about which way a rotation needs to happen.

Author: Burak Özdemir

My name is Burak, and I used to have difficulties waking up in the morning due to unreliable alarm clocks. Over the past few years, I've dedicated part of my life to finding the best alarm clocks and sharing my knowledge with people through this blog.