zodiac

Definition

Astronomy

  • (written as Zodiac)
    The band of sky 9° to either side of the ecliptic in which the Moon and planets are usually found. The twelve constellations of the Zodiac as used by astrologers tell only part of the story, since the Sun also travels through Opiuchius each year and the other planets also visit it.

Origin & History of “zodiac”

The zodiac is etymologically a circle of ‘little animals’. Greek zṓidion originally denoted a ‘carved figure of an animal’ (it was a diminutive of zṓion ‘animal’, a relative of English zoo). from it was derived the adjective zōidiakós, which was used in the expression zōidiakós kúklos ‘circle of carved figures’, denoting the twelve figures or signs representing the divisions of a band around the celestial sphere. Zōidiakós became a noun in its own right, and passed into English via Latin zōdiacus and French zodiaque.
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