tropic of Capricorn

Origin of tropic of Capricorn

First recorded in 1545–55


  1. Geography.
    1. either of two corresponding parallels of latitude on the terrestrial globe, one (tropic of Cancer) about 23½° N, and the other (tropic of Capricorn) about 23½° S of the equator, being the boundaries of the Torrid Zone.
    2. the tropics,the regions lying between and near these parallels of latitude; the Torrid Zone and neighboring regions.
  2. Astronomy. either of two circles on the celestial sphere, one lying in the same plane as the tropic of Cancer, the other in the same plane as the tropic of Capricorn.
  1. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or occurring in the tropics; tropical: romance under the tropic skies of Old Mexico.

Origin of tropic

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin tropicus < Greek tropikós pertaining to a turn, equivalent to tróp(os) turn + -ikos -ic
Related formsnon·trop·ic, adjectiveun·trop·ic, adjective


  1. Astronomy. the Goat, a zodiacal constellation between Sagittarius and Aquarius.
  2. Astrology.
    1. the tenth sign of the zodiac: the cardinal earth sign.
    2. a person born under this sign, usually between December 22nd and January 19th.
  3. tropic of. See under tropic(def 1a).
Also Capricornus (for defs 1, 2).

Origin of Capricorn

1350–1400; Middle English Capricorne < Latin Capricornus (translation of Greek aigókerōs goat-horned), equivalent to capri- capri- + corn(u) horn + -us adj. suffix Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for tropic of capricorn


  1. astrology
    1. Also called: the Goat, Capricornusthe tenth sign of the zodiac, symbol ♑, having a cardinal earth classification and ruled by the planet Saturn. The sun is in this sign between about Dec 22 and Jan 19
    2. a person born during the period when the sun is in this sign
  2. astronomy another name for Capricornus
  3. tropic of Capricorn See tropic (def. 1)
  1. astrology born under or characteristic of Capricorn
Also (for senses 1b, 4): Capricornean (ˌkæprɪˈkɔːnɪən)

Word Origin for Capricorn

C14: from Latin Capricornus (translating Greek aigokerōs goat-horned), from caper goat + cornū horn


  1. (sometimes capital) either of the parallel lines of latitude at about 23 1/2 °N (tropic of Cancer) and 23 1/2 °S (tropic of Capricorn) of the equator
  2. the tropics (often capital) that part of the earth's surface between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn; the Torrid Zone
  3. astronomy either of the two parallel circles on the celestial sphere having the same latitudes and names as the corresponding lines on the earth
  1. a less common word for tropical

Word Origin for tropic

C14: from Late Latin tropicus belonging to a turn, from Greek tropikos, from tropos a turn; from the ancient belief that the sun turned back at the solstices
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 tropic of capricorn



late 14c., "either of the two circles in the celestial sphere which describe the northernmost and southernmost points of the ecliptic," from Late Latin tropicus "of or pertaining to the solstice" (as a noun, "one of the tropics"), from Latin tropicus "pertaining to a turn," from Greek tropikos "of or pertaining to a turn or change, or to the solstice" (as a noun, "the solstice"), from trope "a turning" (see trope).

The notion is of the point at which the sun "turns back" after reaching its northernmost or southernmost point in the sky. Extended 1520s to the corresponding latitudes on the earth's surface (23 degrees 28 minutes north and south); meaning "region between these parallels" is from 1837. Tropical "hot and lush like the climate of the tropics" is first attested 1834.


zodiac sign, late Old English, from Latin Capricornus, literally "horned like a goat," from caper (genitive capri) "goat" (see cab) + cornu "horn" (see horn (n.)); a loan-translation of Greek Aigokheros, the name of the constellation. Extended 1894 to persons born under the sign.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tropic of capricorn in Science


[kăprĭ-kôrn′]Capricornus (kăp′rĭ-kôrnəs)
  1. A constellation in the Southern Hemisphere near Aquarius and Sagittarius. Capricorn (the Goat) is the tenth sign of the zodiac.


  1. Either of the two parallels of latitude representing the points farthest north and south at which the Sun can shine directly overhead. The northern tropic is the Tropic of Cancer and the southern one is the Tropic of Capricorn.
  2. tropics. The region of the Earth lying between these latitudes. The tropics are generally the warmest and most humid region of the Earth. Also called Torrid Zone

Tropic of Capricorn

  1. The parallel of latitude approximately 23°27′ south. It forms the boundary between the Torrid and South Temperate zones.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

tropic of capricorn in Culture

Tropic of Capricorn

Imaginary line that circles the Earth about one-quarter of the way from the equator to the South Pole. The sun is directly overhead at the December solstice.

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.