Word Origin & History
1550s, in ref. to a celestial circle, a line around the sky which, in any location, bounds the stars which are ever-visible from that latitude (in the Northern Hemisphere, this is focused on the celestial north pole); the concept goes back to the ancient Greeks, for whom this set of constellations
included most prominently the two bears (arktoi), hence the name for the circle (see Arctic
). Of Earth, the circle 66 degrees 32 minutes north of the equator, marking the southern extremity of the polar day, it is recorded from 1620s.