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[gal-uh k-see] /ˈgæl ək si/
noun, plural galaxies.
  1. a large system of stars held together by mutual gravitation and isolated from similar systems by vast regions of space.
  2. (usually initial capital letter) Milky Way.
any large and brilliant or impressive assemblage of persons or things:
a galaxy of opera stars.
Origin of galaxy
1350-1400; Middle English galaxie, galaxias < Medieval Latin galaxia, galaxias, ultimately < Greek galaxías kýklos the Milky Way; see galacto- Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for galaxies
  • Powerful telescopes show us the remote planets and faraway galaxies that our puny retinas cannot see.
  • Maybe even one fighting enemies from other galaxies or beyond.
  • Some galaxies rotate so fast that they should be throwing off their outermost stars.
  • At the moment, the main reason for believing dark matter exists is that spinning galaxies would fly apart without it.
  • All the evidence for dark energy comes from the observation of distant galaxies.
  • If dark matter exists it may take the form of mirror planets, mirror stars and mirror galaxies.
  • He spends a substantial amount of his time and money roaming around at night among planets and stars and galaxies.
  • But the models have failed to reproduce some of the key features of individual galaxies.
  • For a variety of obvious reasons, it's impossible to reproduce the exact environment in which galaxies form.
  • Astronomers here observe the universe by studying faint radio waves emitted by stars, evaporating comets, and distant galaxies.
British Dictionary definitions for galaxies


noun (pl) -axies
any of a vast number of star systems held together by gravitational attraction in an asymmetric shape (an irregular galaxy) or, more usually, in a symmetrical shape (a regular galaxy), which is either a spiral or an ellipse Former names island universe, extragalactic nebula, related adjective galactic
a splendid gathering, esp one of famous or distinguished people
Word Origin
C14 (in the sense: the Milky Way), from Medieval Latin galaxia, from Latin galaxias, from Greek, from gala milk; related to Latin lac milk


the Galaxy, the spiral galaxy, approximately 100 000 light years in diameter, that contains the solar system about three fifths of the distance from its centre Also known as the Milky Way System See also Magellanic Cloud
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 galaxies



late 14c., from Old French galaxie, from Late Latin galaxias "Milky Way," from Greek galaxias (adj.), in galaxias kyklos, literally "milky circle," from gala (genitive galaktos) "milk" (see lactation). The technical astronomical sense emerged 1848. Figurative sense of "brilliant assembly of persons" is from 1580s. Milky Way is a translation of Latin via lactea.

See yonder, lo, the Galaxyë Which men clepeth the Milky Wey, For hit is whyt. [Chaucer, "House of Fame"]
Astronomers began to speculate by mid-19c. that some of the spiral nebulae they could see in telescopes were actually immense and immensely distant structures the size and shape of the Milky Way. But the matter was not settled until the 1920s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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galaxies in Science
  1. Any of numerous large-scale collections of stars, gas, and dust that make up the visible universe. Galaxies are held together by the gravitational attraction of the material contained within them, and most are organized around a galactic nucleus into elliptical or spiral shapes, with a small percentage of galaxies classed as irregular in shape. A galaxy may range in diameter from some hundreds of light-years for the smallest dwarfs to hundreds of thousands of light-years for the largest ellipticals, and may contain from a few million to several trillion stars. Many galaxies are grouped into clusters, with the clusters themselves often grouped into larger superclusters. See more at active galaxy, See also elliptical galaxy, irregular galaxy, lenticular galaxy, spiral galaxy.

  2. the Galaxy. The Milky Way.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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galaxies in Culture

galaxy definition

A large, self-contained mass of stars.

Note: A common form for galaxies is a bright center with spiral arms radiating outward.
Note: The universe contains billions of galaxies.
Note: The sun belongs to the galaxy called the Milky Way.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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