Charles's Wain

Charles's Wain

[chahrl-ziz weyn]
noun British.

Origin:
before 1000; Old English Carles wægn Carl's wagon (Carl for Charlemagne); see wain

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World English Dictionary
Charles's Wain (weɪn)
 
n
another name for the Plough
 
[Old English Carles wægn, from Carl Charlemagne + wægn wain]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

Charles's Wain
O.E. Carles wægn, associated with Charlemagne, originally with the nearby bright star Arcturus (see also Arctic), which is linked by folk etymology to L. Arturus "Arthur." The crux of this is the legendary association of Arthur and Charlemagne.
More recent names for it are the Plough (1590s) and the Big Dipper (19c.). Known as a bear across a wide range of cultures. Some old stories specify that the "bowl" of the dipper is the bear, while the three stars of the "handle" are either hunters or its cubs. To the ancients, it was both a bear (Gk. arktos) and a wagon (Gk. amaxa, L. plaustrum "two-wheeled cart"). Among the Teutonic peoples, however, there does not seem to have been a tradition to see this group as a bear, only a wagon. A 10c. Anglo-Saxon astronomy manual uses the Greek-derived Aretos, but mentions that the "unlearned" call it "Charles's Wain":
Arheton hatte an tungol on norð dæle, se haefð seofon steorran, & is for ði oþrum naman ge-hatan septemtrio, þone hatað læwede meon carles-wæn." ["Anglo-Saxon Manual of Astronomy"]
The unlearned of today are corrected that the seven stars are not the Great Bear, but only a part of that large constellation. But those who applied the name "Great Bear" apparently did so originally only to these seven stars, and from Homer's time down to Thales, "the Bear" meant just the seven stars. From Rome to Anglo-Saxon England to Arabia to India, ancient astronomy texts mention a supposed duplicate constellation to the northern bear in the Southern Hemisphere, never visible from the north. This perhaps is based on sailors' tales of the Southern Cross.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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