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sextant

[sek-stuh nt] /ˈsɛk stənt/
noun
1.
an astronomical instrument used to determine latitude and longitude at sea by measuring angular distances, especially the altitudes of sun, moon, and stars.
2.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Sextans.
Origin
1590-1600
1590-1600; < Latin sextant- (stem of sextāns) sixth part of a unit. See sext, -ant
Can be confused
sextant, sextet, sexton.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for sextant

sextant

/ˈsɛkstənt/
noun
1.
an optical instrument used in navigation and consisting of a telescope through which a sighting of a heavenly body is taken, with protractors for determining its angular distance above the horizon or from another heavenly body
2.
a sixth part of a circle having an arc which subtends an angle of 60°
Word Origin
C17: from Latin sextāns one sixth of a unit
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 sextant
sextant
instrument for determining latitude, 1628, from Mod.L. sextans, said to have been coined c.1600 by Dan. astronomer Tycho Brahe, from L. sextans "a sixth," from sex "six." So called because the sextans has a graduated arc equal to a sixth part of a circle.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sextant in Science
sextant
  (sěk'stənt)   
An instrument containing a graduated 60° arc and a movable pivoted arm corresponding to the radius of the arc's circle, used in celestial navigation to measure the altitude of a celestial body in order to determine the observer's latitude and longitude. A horizontally mounted telescope and two small mirrors are arranged so that the observer can, by moving the pivoted arm, sight the horizon and the reflected image of the celestial body in the same line, giving a reading along the arc that is used to look up the observer's position in a published table.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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14
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