What Is a Constellation?

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The general English definition of constellation is a group or configuration of objects, characteristics, ideas, feelings, etc, as in “a constellation of qualities.” The noun constellation is used in astronomy, astrology and general English.

In astronomy, a constellation is a group of stars that has been given names. Examples of constellations include Ursa Minor, Cancer and Orion. Constellation also refers to the section of the sky occupied by this grouping of stars.

In astrology, a constellation is the relative position of a group of stars at the time of a person’s birth. This positioning is thought to influence events related to that person’s life. The constellation also impacts a person’s character because of the grouping at birth. Constellation in astronomy is used as a way of divining the future to give advice to believers.

In general English, constellation often has positive connotations. Therefore, it often means a brilliant or outstanding group of people, as in “a constellation of great scientists.”

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word comes from the Late Latin “constellationem,” which meant “set with stars.” It also relates to the Old French “constellacion,” or “conjecture of planets.” As it relates to astrology, constellation first shows up in Chaucer’s “Wife’s Prologue,” in 1386. In this case, it referred to the wife’s character as related to her “constellation.”