[ koh-pur-ni-kuhs, kuh- ]

  1. Nic·o·la·us [nik-uh-ley-uhs], /ˌnɪk əˈleɪ əs/, Mikolaj Kopernik, 1473–1543, Polish astronomer who promulgated the now accepted theory that the earth and the other planets move around the sun (the Copernican System ).

  2. a crater in the second quadrant of the face of the moon, having an extensive ray system: about 56 miles (90 kilometers) in diameter from crest to crest with walls rising about 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) from its floor; having several central mountains the highest being about 2,400 feet (730 meters).

Origin of Copernicus

First recorded in 1580–90; Latinized form of Kopernik, Koppernik, Koppernigk

Words Nearby Copernicus Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use Copernicus in a sentence

  • Let us suppose that any one denying the theory of Laplace or the theory of Copernicus would be reviled as an "Infidel."

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford
  • Seven years after the death of Copernicus, was born that strange mortal, Giordano Bruno.

    Gospel Philosophy | J. H. Ward
  • When the old Ptolemaic system was exploded by Copernicus, the vaunted wisdom of men proclaimed that the Bible also was exploded.

    Gospel Philosophy | J. H. Ward
  • Even Copernicus studied astronomy and medicine side by side and this combination of studies was not at all infrequent.

  • It would seem that the doctrines of Copernicus were offensive to churchmen on this narrow ground.

British Dictionary definitions for Copernicus (1 of 2)


/ (kəˈpɜːnɪkəs) /

  1. Nicolaus (ˌnɪkəˈleɪəs). Polish name Mikolaj Kopernik. 1473–1543, Polish astronomer, whose theory of the solar system (the Copernican system) was published in 1543

Derived forms of Copernicus

  • Copernican, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for Copernicus (2 of 2)


/ (kəˈpɜːnɪkəs) /

  1. a conspicuous crater on the moon, over 4000 metres deep and 90 kilometres in diameter, from which a system of rays emanates

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 Copernicus


[ kō-pûrnə-kəs ]

  1. Polish astronomer whose theory that Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun provided the foundation for modern astronomy. His model displaced earlier theories that positioned Earth at the center of the solar system with all objects orbiting it.

biography For Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus originally studied canon law and medicine in Italy in preparation for a career in the Catholic Church. While in Italy he became interested in astronomy, which he then pursued in his spare time while working as a church administrator in Frauenberg, Poland. In a brief essay, Commentariolis (Little Commentary), he introduced his heliocentric system, in which the Sun is at the center of the universe, with all the planets and stars revolving around it in circular orbits. Copernicus was trying to account for the movements of the planets that, in the days prior to the invention of telescopes, were visible to the unaided eye and that did not fit the older Earth-centered, or geocentric, model of the universe of the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. Copernicus published a longer, more complete account of his theory, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), in 1543, just before he died. His heliocentric model of the universe was disputed by most astronomers of the time, as well as by the Church. After Copernicus's death, the few defenders of his ideas included Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei. De revolutionibus was on the Catholic Church's Index of Forbidden Books from 1616 to 1835. Theoretical support for Copernicus's system was provided almost 150 years after the publication of De revolutionibus by Sir Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation. His other great accomplishment was his proposal that the Earth rotates once daily on its own axis.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.