Why are constellations called constellations?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The word "constellation" comes from the Old French "constellacion," which comes from the Late Latin "constellationem."

Here's a breakdown of the word and its Latin roots:

  • con- Meaning "with" or "together." This describes the aspect of constellations as being gatherings or patterns of stars.
  • stella- Stella or stellae is the word for stars, but a long time ago the same word was used to described planets or other celestial bodies. This word pre-dates technology which allows us to look into the sky and distinguish between stars and planets.
  • -tion- This is a suffix for words of Latin origin which describes an action or state of being. 


So, altogether, constellation roughly means "stars which are clustered together."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial