[ ih-klips ]
See synonyms for: eclipseeclipsed on

  1. Astronomy.

    • the obscuration of the light of the moon by the intervention of the earth between it and the sun (lunar eclipse ) or the obscuration of the light of the sun by the intervention of the moon between it and a point on the earth (solar eclipse ).

    • a similar phenomenon with respect to any other planet and either its satellite or the sun.

    • the partial or complete interception of the light of one component of a binary star by the other.

  2. any obscuration of light.

  1. a reduction or loss of splendor, status, reputation, etc.: Scandal caused the eclipse of his career.

verb (used with object),e·clipsed, e·clips·ing.
  1. to cause to undergo eclipse: The moon eclipsed the sun.

  2. to make less outstanding or important by comparison; surpass: a soprano whose singing eclipsed that of her rivals.

Origin of eclipse

1250–1300; Middle English eclips(e), clips<Anglo-French, Old French eclipse<Latin eclīpsis<Greek ékleipsis, equivalent to ekleíp(ein) to leave out, forsake, fail to appear (see ec-) + -sis-sis

Other words from eclipse

  • e·clips·er, noun
  • non·e·clipsed, adjective
  • non·e·clips·ing, adjective
  • un·e·clipsed, adjective
  • un·e·clips·ing, adjective

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

How to use eclipse in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for eclipse


/ (ɪˈklɪps) /

  1. the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth; a lunar eclipse when the earth passes between the sun and the moon: See also total eclipse, partial eclipse, annular eclipse Compare occultation

  2. the period of time during which such a phenomenon occurs

  1. any dimming or obstruction of light

  2. a loss of importance, power, fame, etc, esp through overshadowing by another

  1. to cause an eclipse of

  2. to cast a shadow upon; darken; obscure

  1. to overshadow or surpass in importance, power, etc

Origin of eclipse

C13: back formation from Old English eclypsis, from Latin eclīpsis, from Greek ekleipsis a forsaking, from ekleipein to abandon, from leipein to leave

Derived forms of eclipse

  • eclipser, noun

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 eclipse


[ ĭ-klĭps ]

  1. The partial or total blocking of light of one celestial object by another. An eclipse of the Sun or Moon occurs when the Earth, Moon, and Sun are aligned.♦ In a solar eclipse the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth. During a total solar eclipse the disk of the Moon fully covers that of the Sun, and only the Sun's corona is visible.♦ An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is farthest in its orbit from the Earth so that its disk does not fully cover that of the Sun, and part of the Sun's photosphere is visible as a ring around the Moon.♦ In a lunar eclipse all or a part of the Moon's disk enters the umbra of the Earth's shadow and is no longer illuminated by the Sun. Lunar eclipses occur only during a full moon, when the Moon is directly opposite the Sun.

a closer look

The Sun is about 400 times wider than the Moon and 400 times farther from Earth, causing the two to appear to be almost exactly the same size in our sky. This relationship is also responsible for the phenomenon of the total solar eclipse, an eclipse of the Sun in which the disk of the Moon fully covers that of the Sun, blocking the Sun's light and causing the Moon's shadow to fall across the Earth. A total solar eclipse can be viewed only from a very narrow area on Earth, or zone of totality, where the dark central shadow of the Moon, or umbra, falls. From this perspective one can view the Sun's delicate corona-tendrils of charged gases that surround the Sun but are invisible to the unaided eye in normal daylight. This is also the only time when stars are visible in the day sky. Those viewing the eclipse from where the edges of the Moon's shadow, or penumbra, fall to Earth will see only a partial solar eclipse. The orbits of the Earth around the Sun and of the Moon around the Earth are not perfect circles, causing slight variations in how large the Sun and Moon appear to us and in the length of solar eclipses. The maximum duration of a total solar eclipse when the Earth is farthest from the Sun and the Moon is closest to the Earth is seven and a half minutes.

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

Cultural definitions for eclipse


In astronomy, the blocking out of light from one object by the intervention of another object. The most dramatic eclipses visible from the Earth are eclipses of the sun (when sunlight is blocked by the moon) and eclipses of the moon (when sunlight on its way to the moon is blocked by the Earth).

Notes for eclipse

The term eclipse is also used to refer to a general decline or temporary obscurity: “After taking the title last year, the team has gone into an eclipse this season.”

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.