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[ih-klip-tik] /ɪˈklɪp tɪk/
  1. the great circle formed by the intersection of the plane of the earth's orbit with the celestial sphere; the apparent annual path of the sun in the heavens.
  2. an analogous great circle on a terrestrial globe.
Astrology. the great circle of the ecliptic, along which are located the 12 houses and signs of the zodiac.
adjective, Also, ecliptical
pertaining to an eclipse.
pertaining to the ecliptic.
Origin of ecliptic
1350-1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin eclīptica, feminine of eclīpticus < Greek ekleiptikós, equivalent to ekleíp(ein) (see eclipse) + -tikos -tic
Related forms
ecliptically, adverb
nonecliptic, adjective
nonecliptical, adjective
nonecliptically, adverb
unecliptic, adjective
unecliptical, adjective
unecliptically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ecliptic
  • Short-period comets, however, are mostly confined to the ecliptic-the plane in which the planets themselves are found.
  • But this relies on the stars planetary ecliptic to be aligned somewhat in our direction.
  • Only stars within a narrow angle of the ecliptic will be able to detect these transits.
  • The prehistoric astronomers divided the ecliptic and zodiac into twelve parts, now familiarly known as the signs of the zodiac.
  • Orbiting the equator would not result in one eclipse per day, since the equator is not coplanar with the ecliptic.
  • The moon gets unstable and goes into an ecliptic orbit around the sun.
  • Unless a planet is captured or disturbed somehow, all of them form along an ecliptic plane.
  • The reasons for this are not clear, but it is certainly nothing to do with the planets or the constellations on the ecliptic.
British Dictionary definitions for ecliptic


  1. the great circle on the celestial sphere representing the apparent annual path of the sun relative to the stars. It is inclined at 23.45° to the celestial equator. The poles of the ecliptic lie on the celestial sphere due north and south of the plane of the ecliptic
  2. (as modifier): the ecliptic plane
an equivalent great circle, opposite points of which pass through the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, on the terrestrial globe
of or relating to an eclipse
Derived Forms
ecliptically, adverb
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
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Word Origin and History for ecliptic

late 14c., "the circle in the sky followed by the Sun," from Medieval Latin ecliptica, from Late Latin (linea) ecliptica, from Greek ekliptikos "of an eclipse" (see eclipse (n.)). So called because eclipses happen only when the Moon is near the line. Related: Ecliptical.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ecliptic in Science
The great circle on the celestial sphere that represents the Sun's apparent path among the background stars in one year. The northernmost point this path reaches on the celestial sphere is the Tropic of Cancer, its southernmost point is the Tropic of Capricorn, and it crosses the celestial equator at the points of vernal and autumnal equinox. ◇ The plane of the ecliptic is the imaginary plane that intersects the celestial sphere along the ecliptic, and the north and south ecliptic poles are the points where a perpendicular line through the middle of this plane intersect the sphere. The plane of the ecliptic corresponds to the plane in which the Earth orbits the Sun. If the Earth's axis were not tilted, the ecliptic would be identical to the celestial equator and the ecliptic poles identical to the celestial poles. In this case, the Sun's path would not move northward or southward from the equator during the year. As it is, the plane of the celestial equator is tilted 23.45° to the plane of the ecliptic, corresponding to the tilt of the Earth's axis with respect to its orbital plane, giving the Sun its apparent northward and southward movement among the background stars. See illustration at celestial sphere.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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