[ zoh-dee-ak ]
/ ˈzoʊ diˌæk /
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Definition of zodiac

an imaginary belt of the heavens, extending about 8° on each side of the ecliptic, within which are the apparent paths of the sun, moon, and principal planets. It contains twelve constellations and hence twelve divisions called signs of the zodiac. Each division, however, because of the precession of the equinoxes, now contains the constellation west of the one from which it took its name.Compare sign of the zodiac.
a circular or elliptical diagram representing this belt, and usually containing pictures of the animals, human figures, etc., that are associated with the constellations and signs.
a circuit or round.


Click for a side-by-side comparison of meanings. Use the word comparison feature to learn the differences between similar and commonly confused words.


How Well Do You Know The Signs Of The Zodiac?

Today we're going to find out what these two so-called astrology buffs actually know about the zodiac signs and names. Do you know more than they do?

Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of zodiac

1350–1400; Middle English zodiaque<Latin zōdiacus<Greek zōidiakòs (kýklos) signal (circle), equivalent to zṓidi(on) animal sign ((ion) animal + -idion diminutive suffix) + -akos-ac


zo·di·a·cal [zoh-dahy-uh-kuhl], /zoʊˈdaɪ ə kəl/, adjectivenon·zo·di·a·cal, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does zodiac mean?

In astronomy, the zodiac is the band of sky along which the paths of the sun, the moon, and the planets appear to move.

The zodiac can be divided into 12 sections, each of which is named after a constellation (called a zodiacal constellation). These include Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Leo, Cancer, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius (Scorpio), Sagittarius, and Capricornus (Capricorn).

Despite its basis in astronomy, the word zodiac is mainly associated with and most often used in the context of astrology, in which it refers to a diagram (often a circular one) representing this belt and showing the symbols associated with each of the 12 constellations or sections, which are called the signs of the zodiac

Astrology is the nonscientific practice in which the positions of heavenly bodies at certain times are thought to influence or be correlated with human behavior and events. For example, the position of the sun in a particular portion of the zodiac at the moment of a person’s birth is thought to correlate with their personality. This is what people are referring to when they talk about their zodiac sign (or star sign or often just sign). The word horoscope can refer to a diagram of the heavens that maps the relative position of planets and the signs of the zodiac. It can also refer to a prediction based (or said to be based) on such a diagram.

The symbols used in Western astrology differ in some other cultures. For example, different ones are used in the Chinese zodiac.

Example: Apparently, my wife and I have zodiac signs that are supposed to be very incompatible—oh well, we get along great!

Where does zodiac come from?

The first records of the word zodiac come from around the 1300s. It comes from the Greek zōidiakòs (kuklos), meaning “(circle) of signs.” It ultimately comes from zōidion, meaning “animal sign” or “carved figure, from zōion, “animal.”

When ancient people looked up in the sky, they saw patterns in the stars that they thought looked like animals and other figures, such as a bull (Taurus), a lion (Leo), a scorpion (Scorpio), and an archer (Sagittarius). These patterns are what we call constellations, and some of them appear in what’s called the zodiac. All of this involved (and became part of) ancient mythology and the practice of trying to interpret events based on the position of heavenly bodies (which we now call astrology).

Turn your sights toward this article to learn more about each of the astrological signs of the zodiac.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to zodiac?


  • zodiacal (adjective)


  • nonzodiacal (adjective)

What are some words that share a root or word element with zodiac

What are some words that often get used in discussing zodiac?


How is zodiac used in real life?

The word zodiac is most commonly used in the context of astrology, especially in the discussion of signs of the zodiac.


Try using zodiac!

Which of the following constellations is NOT considered a sign of the zodiac?

A. Aquarius
B. Pisces
C. Orion
D. Aries

How to use zodiac in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for zodiac

/ (ˈzəʊdɪˌæk) /

an imaginary belt extending 8° either side of the ecliptic, which contains the 12 zodiacal constellations and within which the moon and planets appear to move. It is divided into 12 equal areas, called signs of the zodiac, each named after the constellation which once lay in itSee zodiacal constellation
astrology a diagram, usually circular, representing this belt and showing the symbols, illustrations, etc, associated with each of the 12 signs of the zodiac, used to predict the future
rare a complete circuit; circle

Derived forms of zodiac

zodiacal (zəʊˈdaɪəkəl), adjective

Word Origin for zodiac

C14: from Old French zodiaque, from Latin zōdiacus, from Greek zōidiakos (kuklos) (circle) of signs, from zōidion animal sign, carved figure, from zōion animal
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 zodiac

[ zōdē-ăk′ ]

A band of the celestial sphere extending about eight degrees north and south of the ecliptic, representing the portion of the sky within which the paths of the Sun, the Moon, and the planets are found. In astrology, the zodiac is divided into 12 equal segments, each of which is named after a constellation through which the ecliptic passes in that region of the sky. The traditional beginning point of constellations is Aries, followed in calendrical order by Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. See also equinox.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for zodiac (1 of 2)


A band of the sky along which the sun, the moon, and most of the planets move. It is divided into twelve parts, with each part named for a nearby constellation.

notes for zodiac

The twelve constellations, or signs, of the zodiac are important in astrology.

Cultural definitions for zodiac (2 of 2)


The imaginary band in the sky through which the sun, the moon, and the planets appear to move. The twelve constellations in the band (Aquarius, Pisces, and so on) are the familiar signs of the zodiac used in astrology.

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.