• synonyms


  1. an astronomical instrument for taking the altitude of the sun or stars and for the solution of other problems in astronomy and navigation: used by Greek astronomers from about 200 b.c. and by Arab astronomers from the Middle Ages until superseded by the sextant.
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Origin of astrolabe

1325–75; Middle English, variant of astrolabie < Medieval Latin astrolabium < Late Greek astrolábion, Greek astrolábon (neuter of astrolábos, adj. used as noun), equivalent to ástro(n) star + lab- (variant stem of lambánein to take, seize) + -on neuter suffix
Related formsas·tro·lab·i·cal [as-truh-lab-i-kuh l, -ley-bi-] /ˌæs trəˈlæb ɪ kəl, -ˈleɪ bɪ-/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for astrolabe

Historical Examples

  • The rest of the voyage of the Astrolabe was in well-known waters.

    Celebrated Travels and Travellers

    Jules Verne

  • There were also in this library an astrolabe, and a sphere with the signs of the Zodiac.

    The Care of Books

    John Willis Clark

  • The Astrolabe had anchored in the same depth, and upon a similar bottom.

  • Astrolabe: a machine used at sea to measure the distances of stars.

    Chaucer for Children

    Mrs. H. R. Haweis

  • See Chaucer's own treatise on The Astrolabe, which he describes.

British Dictionary definitions for astrolabe


  1. an instrument used by early astronomers to measure the altitude of stars and planets and also as a navigational aid. It consists of a graduated circular disc with a movable sighting deviceCompare sextant
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Word Origin

C13: via Old French and Medieval Latin from Greek, from astrolabos (adj), literally: star-taking, from astron star + lambanein to take
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for astrolabe


mid-14c., from Old French astrelabe, from Medieval Latin astrolabium, from Greek astrolabos (organon) "star taking (instrument)," from astron "star" (see astro-) + lambanien "to take" (see analemma).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

astrolabe in Science


  1. An ancient instrument used widely in medieval times by navigators and astronomers to determine latitude, longitude, and time of day. The device employed a disk with 360 degrees marked on its circumference. Users took readings from an indicator that pivoted around the center of the suspended device like the hand of a clock. The astrolabe was replaced by the sextant in the 18th century.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.