Astrology Terms: Basic Glossary With Definitions & Meanings

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zodiac constellations and glyphs
Zodiac

Those who study the zodiac know there is a long list of astrology terms many people don't truly understand the meanings of.

Keeping a basic glossary full of simple definitions bookmarked can help you on your astrological journey. After all, the more you know about what the concepts below mean, the better you can understand yourself and others.

Some more complicated sounding words — like transit, aspect, or retrograde — can feel overwhelming at first. Though it may be daunting for beginners, be sure to give yourself time as you do some exploring — and, of course, have fun with it!

Before long, you’ll be helping your friends and family understand their own unique personalities and relationships as explained by astrology.

RELATED: Astronomy Vs Astrology: 7 Common Questions Answered

Anyone with an interest in astrology can learn something new and useful they hadn't thought of before. As with most studies of complex topics, starting off small and slowly is often the best way to do it.

Here is a basic glossary of astrology terms to help you better understand astrological charts and readings:

Air Signs

The Air signs are three zodiac signs who fall under the Air element: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.

Aquarius

Aquarius is the eleventh sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Saturn, and is described to have a personality that’s independent, unique, and rebellious.

Aries

Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Mars, and has a personality described as passionate, ambitious, and dynamic.

Ascendant

Your Ascendant, also called your Rising sign, is the sign closest to the Eastern horizon at the exact time of your birth. Your Ascendant represents your actual life path and what you're here to accomplish; it’s also believed to represent how you appear to others. In addition to your Sun sign and Moon sign, your Ascendant helps in determining your personality.

Aspects

Aspects are the angles of focus used in astrology to indicate places within your natal chart where signs and planets interact. They are also used in synastry astrology to determine compatibility between two individuals.

Major Aspect

Major Aspects deal with our actions, choices, and how we impact the world around us. Major Aspects include: Opposition, Conjunction, Sextile, Square, and Trine.

Minor Aspect

Minor Aspects represent the changes to our internal world. They occur less often than Major Aspects, but are just as powerful. Minor Aspects include: Semi-sextile, Quincunx, Quintile, Biquintile and Semi-Quintile, Semi-Square and Sesquisquare, Septile, Novile or Nonine,

Astrologer

An astrologer is a person familiar with astrology. They analyze charts and concepts to help others understand how it affects their individual lives and personality.

Cancer

Cancer is the fourth sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by the Moon, and has a personality described as emotional, intuitive, and protective.

Cardinal Signs

A Cardinal sign is a modality in astrology. They are initiators of change, using their energy and leadership to start new projects or ventures. The Cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn.

Capricorn

Capricorn is the tenth sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Saturn, and has a personality described as hard-working, disciplined, and practical.

Ceres

Ceres is a major asteroid, the others being Chiron and Pallas. This large asteroid orbits between Jupiter and Mars, and rules aspects related to motherhood, including self-care, nurturing, and giving love to others.

Chiron

Chiron is a small asteroid known as the “Wounded Healer.” This celestial body gives us a deep connection to our personal journey and helps us become aware of our past damage.

Combust

Combust refers to when a planet’s positive effects in your astrological house is negated from being close to the Sun in your natal chart.

Conjunction

A conjunction is the technical term for any time two planets are lined up at zero degrees apart In one sign, causing them to temporarily combine and share energy.

Cusp

A cusp is the dividing line between two zodiac signs or houses. For instance, if you are born on February 20th, you are an Aquarius-Pisces cusp.

Cycle

A cycle in astrology is the amount of time it takes a planet or angle to make a complete revolution.

Decan

Decans are divided into 36 segments, each containing 10 degrees. They divide the signs of the zodiac into thirds, with four signs in each decan. For example, Taurus occurs between April 20 and May 20; decan 1 is from April 20 to April 30, decan 2 is from May 1 to May 10, and decan 3 is from May 11 to May 20.

Descendant

Your Descendant is the opposite point of your Rising sign. A Descendant represents what you may reject in another person, and is a reflection of something within yourself that you haven’t resolved. For example, if your Rising sign is Aries, your Descendant is the astrological opposite of Aries: Libra.

Divination

This is the practice of seeking intuitive guidance. Divination is a deepening of understanding of the present or future energies, primarily by means of intuition or physical tools of some sort, such as Tarot cards, tea leaves, or runes.

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Direct

This is the point in a planet’s transit where it appears to hover in place before moving forward or retrograde again. It’s a reflective time of pause and assessment before beginning something new. In direct vs. retrograde, it’s all about how we perceive the planet moving from Earth.

Dualities

A duality is a reference to gender-like energies.

Feminine signs

The feminine signs are Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces. These astrological signs represent divine feminine energies.

​Masculine signs

The masculine signs are Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius. These signs represent the divine masculine energies of the zodiac signs.

Earth Signs

The Earth signs are three zodiac signs who fall under the Earth element: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.

Eclipse

An eclipse is when one celestial body blocks the light or visibility of another body. For example, a Lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes into the Earth’s shadow, blocking the Sun.

Element

The four elements in astrology are Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. Each element gives unique insight into understanding yourself. Zodiac signs who share an element have the same qualities of that specific element.

Equinox

An equinox occurs twice a year: once at the beginning of Spring, and again at the beginning of Autumn. During an equinox, there’s equal time in the day and night, with 12 hours each.

Fire Signs

The Fire signs are three zodiac signs who fall under the Fire element: Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.

Fixed Signs

A Fixed sign is a modality in astrology. They are steady energy signs likened to have staying power to complete tasks with unwavering energy. The Fixed signs include Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius.

Gemini

Gemini is the third sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Mercury, and has a personality described as outgoing, intellectual, and impulsive.

Glyph

Also called a symbol, a glyph represents a celestial body or zodiac sign. Each zodiac sign and planet has a unique glyph.

Grand Trine

When three planets in a natal chart form a trine (120 degrees), it looks like an equilateral triangle. This aspect pattern is rare and indicates harmony, especially when seen in two people’s charts.

Horoscope

A horoscope is a prediction of events in the future. Astrologers use horoscopes to analyze a person’s unique traits, and how these traits complement other information.

House

Astrological houses are a system represented by twelve house divisions, with each of the twelve zodiac signs sharing overarching themes that reside within the house. Each house has a sign in them at your date and time of birth. Those signs in the houses in your natal chart give their natural energy to the house energy, creating a dynamic that affects your life. Think of it like this: the houses are where a sign’s influence is the strongest. 

Juno

Juno is an asteroid that moves behind the scenes in our lives. She’s the goddess of commitment, ruling marriage and family. Juno encourages us to move forward and make a decision.

Jupiter

Jupiter is the planet of luck, abundance, and our plans for the future. Jupiter’s placement in your chart at your time of birth reveals what to expect in your career and success. Jupiter is also the ruling planet of Sagittarius.

Leo

Leo is the fifth sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by the Sun, and has a personality described as generous, confident, and loyal.

Libra

Libra is the seventh sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Venus, and has a personality described as balanced, harmonious, and idealistic.

Lilith

Lilith is the dark side of your personality; it’s all the repressed desires inside you hide. During the Black Moon, which is when an additional New Moon occurs in a month or season, this is when your Lilith comes out.

Lunar Return

A Lunar Return refers to the time when the Moon returns to the exact position it was at your birth. The Moon takes 28 days to make its trek across the sky, so astrologers can create a monthly chart for the energies you interact with depending on your Moon sign and the energy it lends you based on where it’s currently located.

Mars

Mars is the planet of aggression, ruling our passion, self-knowledge, ambition and drive. The planet of masculine energy within us, this planet rules Fire sign Aries.

Mercury

Mercury is the planet of communication and expression. Called the Messenger and the Trickster, Mercury affects how we process ideas and information. This planet rules Gemini and Virgo.

Midheaven

Midheaven, also known as Medium Coeli or MC (which means “middle of the sky”), is an important angle in natal charts. It’s the cusp between the tenth house in your chart. Your midheaven represents your goals, aspirations, reputation, and career path.

Moon

The Moon represents our unconscious self, personal needs, inner world, and how we react to situations. The Moon rules Cancer and is associated with motherly, feminine energy.

Moon Phases

The phases of the moon are split into 8 different phases, determined by the Moon’s distance from the Sun, and how much of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun. The phases vary depending on the time of month. The 8 phases include: New Moon, Waxing Crescent Moon, First Quarter Moon, Waxing Gibbous Moon, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous Moon, Third Quarter Moon, and Waning Crescent.

Modality

A modality is a type of energy a sign primarily uses for expression. There are three modalities in astrology: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable.

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Moon Signs

Your Moon sign is determined by the placement of the Moon at the exact time and location of your birth. Moon signs are known to influence the ways you feel, process and regulate emotions.

Mutable Signs

A Mutable sign is a modality in astrology. They are “go with the flow,” flexible, and versatile; however, they are not known for their ability to adapt to their environment. The Mutable signs include Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces.

Natal Chart

A natal chart is another name for your birth chart. It represents the placement and position of each planet at the time of your birth.

Neptune

Neptune is the planet of our subconscious and dreams. This planet gives us an optimistic outlook while helping us see the cold hard truth, guiding us forward. Neptune is the ruling planet of Pisces.

Nodes

Split into the North Node and South Node, Nodes, in general, are points on the ecliptic (or circle) where the Moon goes North or South. The “Nodes of Fate,” as they are called, direct us on a path towards spirituality. The North Node represents your destiny; the South Node represents where you’re coming from and bringing into life.

Opposition

When two planets are said to be in opposition, this means they are on completer opposite sides of the zodiac wheel at 180 degrees. Planets in opposition may butt heads and cause each other disharmony, but as opposites often do, they may also attract one another.

Orb

In your natal chart, an orb refers to the exact degrees of an angle between planets and a point. Depending on how many degrees separate the two, it can determine how powerful the aspect is.

Outer Planets

Outer planets are those that exist beyond Saturn: Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. These planets are also called generational planets, as they transit through signs much slower, and affect generations (for example, a mother and daughter) differently.

Pallas

Pallas is an asteroid, like Ceres and Chiron, that influences astrology. This asteroid represents wisdom, justice, and the arts.

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Pisces

Pisces is the twelfth sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Jupiter and Neptune, and has a personality described as creative, empathetic, and emotional.

Planetary Return

When you have a planet in a specific zodiac sign in your personal natal chart, a planetary return occurs when the planet transits back to that sign where it originally was at your time of birth. It represents a new cycle in your life.

Pluto

Pluto is the planet of illusions, dreams, and transformation. Associated with the underworld and the subconscious, this planet rules Scorpio, representing your personal growth.

Retrograde

Retrograde occurs when a planet appears to move backwards from the perspective of Earth. This is a time when we face challenges, and depending on the planet in retrograde, it gives us the opportunity to go back over our troubles and attempt a resolution before the planet moves direct and new energy flows in.

Rising Signs

See Ascendent above.

Ruling Planets

Each zodiac sign has a ruling planet, which affects your personality and energy, depending on your Sun sign. Some zodiac signs have two ruling planets or the addition of an asteroid.

Sagittarius

Sagittarius is the ninth sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Jupiter, and has a personality described as free-spirited, intellectual, and optimistic.

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Saturn

Saturn is the planet of restriction, limitation, and creating structure in life. This planet is a reminder of our personal boundaries and commitments. Saturn is the ruling planet of Capricorn, and is related to self-control.

Saturn Return

It takes Saturn roughly 30 years to make one revolution around the Sun. A Saturn return occurs when the planet “returns” to where it was in your chart at the time of your birth.

Scorpio

Scorpio is the eighth sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Mars and Pluto, and has a personality described as passionate, intense, and jealous.

Sextile

Signs are in sextile when they are 60 degrees apart from one another, often causing a calming effect and some stress relief.

Sister Signs

Your sister sign is the zodiac sign opposite yours on the Zodiac wheel. Your sister sign is your polar opposite with whom you share a modality.

Solar Return

A solar return is the time each year where your Sun sign returns to the exact same position it was at your birth. A solar return chart is a predictor of the energies you will encounter for the year ahead and is different from your natal chart.

Solstice

The Solstice occurs twice per year, at the beginning of both Summer and Winter, and occurs when the Sun reaches its maximum or minimum declination. The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, while the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year.

Square

A square, in which signs are aligned at sharp 90 degree angles is often considered an intense aspect. The hard angle may cause tension between zodiac energies involved, although they are said to present an opportunity for conflict resolution for those willing to put in some hard work.

Stellium

Also called a configuration, a stellium is when there are three or more planets in the same zodiac sign in your natal chart. This grouping of signs makes their influence more powerful.

Sun Signs

Your Sun sign is also known as your zodiac sign. The Sun in your chart represents your life force and conscious mind; it’s your identity and the core of who you are.

Supermoon

A Supermoon occurs when the Moon is closest to Earth’s perigee. This can occur with either a Full Moon or New Moon.

Synastry

Synastry refers to the planetary connection between your natal chart and another person for use in compatibility readings. These connections are great indicators of how your energies mix together.

Synchronicity

This term was coined by Carl Jung to further develop the theory of uncanny coincidence. Simply, it’s when two events occur that seem oddly connected.

Taurus

Taurus is the second sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Venus, and has a personality described as materialistic, ambitious, and luxurious.

Transit

A transit refers to the time and movement that the planets take across the sky. Each planet has its own unique transit period.

Uranus

Uranus is the planet of eccentricity, upheaval, and rebellion. Also called the Great Awakener, this planet pushes us out of our comfort zones and forces us to act. Uranus is the ruling planet of Aquarius.

Venus

Venus is the planet of love, beauty, and art. This planet determines how we love and what we value most. Venus rules both Libra and Taurus.

Virgo

Virgo is the sixth sign of the Zodiac. This zodiac sign is ruled by Mercury, and has a personality described as reliable, analytical, and hard-working.

Water Signs

The Water signs are three zodiac signs who fall under the Water element: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.

Yod

Known as the “Finger of God,” a yod occurs in a natal chart when two planets sextile one another at 60 degrees, with a third planet quincunx to all of them. Essentially, it’s an isosceles triangle that appears in a birth chart.

Zodiac

Zodiac, derived from a Greek word meaning "circle of animals," was developed by the Egyptians and later adopted by the Babylonians. The Zodiac describes the twelve 30-degree divisions of the sky centered on the ecliptic of the Sun. The Zodiac has been used since ancient times as a reflective tool for personalities and even predictions of the future.

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Amanda Ilene Sawyer is a writer with a passion for science, spiritualism, astrology and Tarot. Follow her on Instagram for more.