[ kon-stuh-ley-shuhn ]
/ ˌkɒn stəˈleɪ ʃən /


  1. any of various groups of stars to which definite names have been given, as Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Boötes, Cancer, Orion.
  2. the section of the heavens occupied by such a group.
  1. the grouping or relative position of the stars as supposed to influence events, especially at a person's birth.
  2. Obsolete. character as presumed to be determined by the stars.
a group or configuration of ideas, feelings, characteristics, objects, etc., that are related in some way: a constellation of qualities that made her particularly suited to the job.
any brilliant, outstanding group or assemblage: a constellation of great scientists.

Origin of constellation

1275–1325; Middle English constellacioun (< Anglo-French) < Late Latin constellātiōn- (stem of constellātiō). See constellate, -ion

OTHER WORDS FROM constellation

con·stel·la·to·ry [kuhn-stel-uh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /kənˈstɛl əˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/, adjectivesub·con·stel·la·tion, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Examples from the Web for constellation

British Dictionary definitions for constellation

/ (ˌkɒnstɪˈleɪʃən) /


  1. any of the 88 groups of stars as seen from the earth and the solar system, many of which were named by the ancient Greeks after animals, objects, or mythological persons
  2. an area on the celestial sphere containing such a group
a gathering of brilliant or famous people or things
psychoanal a group of ideas felt to be related

Derived forms of constellation

constellational, adjectiveconstellatory (kənˈstɛlətərɪ, -trɪ), adjective

Word Origin for constellation

C14: from Late Latin constellātiō, from Latin com- together + stella star
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

Scientific definitions for constellation

[ kŏn′stə-lāshən ]

A group of stars seen as forming a figure or design in the sky, especially one of 88 officially recognized groups, many of which are based on mythological traditions from ancient Greek and Middle Eastern civilizations.
An area of the sky occupied by one of the 88 recognized constellations. These irregularly defined areas completely fill the celestial sphere and divide it into nonoverlapping sections used in describing the location of celestial objects.

A Closer Look

Various cultures throughout history have chosen different groups of stars in the night sky to form different constellations. While it was once thought that the Greeks were responsible for determining many of the constellations known today, it is now believed that the mythological origins of the 48 ancient constellations predate the Greeks and originate instead from ancient Middle Eastern civilizations. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries another 40 constellations were invented by Europeans for navigational purposes. The boundaries of the 88 constellations currently recognized were defined in the 1920s by the International Astronomical Union. There is no scientific reason why there are exactly 88; the modern constellations are only a convenient way to break up the sky to locate the position of celestial objects or track satellites. Although the stars in any given constellation may look like they're neighbors, they can actually be many light-years apart, and if seen from another part of the galaxy they would form different groups and shapes altogether. Constellation names are usually given in Latin, such as Ursa Major (Great Bear) or Centaurus (Centaur), and individual stars in constellations are named in order of brightness, using the Greek alphabet, with the genitive case of the constellation following. Therefore, Alpha Centauri is the brightest star in the constellation Centaurus, Beta Centauri is the second brightest star, and so on. The stars within our galaxy are rushing through space in various directions, and as the millennia pass, the arrangements of the star groups as seen from Earth will change, inevitably altering the constellations as we know them.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for constellation


An easily recognized group of stars that appear to be located close together in the sky and that form a picture if lines connecting them are imagined. Constellations are usually named after an animal, a character from mythology, or a common object. (See Big Dipper, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.