Asterism – Definition & Meaning

Asterism is a term that is often used in astronomy and astrology. It refers to a group of stars that form a recognizable pattern or shape in the sky. These patterns have been recognized and named by various cultures throughout history, and they have been used for navigation, storytelling, and religious purposes. In this article, we will explore the definition and meaning of asterism, its origin, and its associations.


Asterism is defined as a group of stars that form a recognizable pattern or shape in the sky. These patterns are often named after mythological figures, animals, or objects that they resemble. Asterisms are different from constellations, which are officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union and have specific boundaries.


The word asterism comes from the Greek word “aster,” which means star. The term was first used in the 16th century to describe the patterns of stars that were recognized by ancient cultures. These cultures used asterisms for navigation, storytelling, and religious purposes. For example, the ancient Greeks used the constellation Orion as a guide for navigation and also associated it with the mythological figure of the same name.

Meaning in different dictionaries

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an asterism is “a pattern of stars that is smaller than a constellation and that is named after a mythological figure, an animal, or an object.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines asterism as “a small group of stars forming a recognizable pattern within a constellation.” These definitions highlight the fact that asterisms are smaller than constellations and are often named after recognizable shapes or figures.


Asterisms are associated with various cultural and religious traditions. In Hindu mythology, the Pleiades star cluster is known as Krittika and is associated with the goddess Kali. In Chinese culture, the asterism known as the Big Dipper is associated with the god of literature and is used for divination. In Native American cultures, the asterism known as the Seven Sisters is associated with the Pleiades and is used for storytelling and as a guide for agriculture.


Some synonyms for asterism include star pattern, star cluster, and star grouping. These terms are often used interchangeably with asterism to describe a recognizable pattern of stars in the sky.


There are no direct antonyms for asterism, as it is a specific term that describes a particular phenomenon in the sky. However, some related terms that could be considered antonyms include constellation (which refers to a specific grouping of stars) and nebula (which refers to a cloud of gas and dust in space).

The same root words

The root word for asterism is “aster,” which means star. This root word is also found in other related terms, such as asteroid (a small rocky object that orbits the sun) and astronomy (the study of celestial objects such as stars, planets, and galaxies).

Example Sentences

  • The Big Dipper is a well-known asterism that is part of the constellation Ursa Major.
  • The Pleiades is an asterism that has been recognized and named by various cultures throughout history.
  • The ancient Egyptians used asterisms for navigation and religious purposes.
  • The constellation Orion contains several recognizable asterisms, including the Belt and the Sword.
  • The asterism known as the Northern Cross is visible in the northern hemisphere during the summer months.
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