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eclip·​tic i-ˈklip-tik How to pronounce ecliptic (audio)
: of or relating to the ecliptic or an eclipse


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: the great circle of the celestial sphere that is the apparent path of the sun among the stars or of the earth as seen from the sun : the plane of the earth's orbit extended to meet the celestial sphere

Examples of ecliptic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Planetary alignment is not uncommon along the ecliptic path, with the last occurrence seen in the Northern Hemisphere on April 8. Leah Sarnoff, ABC News, 28 May 2024 After that, the Solar Orbiter will drift off the ecliptic plane to begin examining the sun’s poles. WIRED, 20 Sep. 2023 Right now, the comet is still on its way towards the outer reaches of the solar system, and is far below the ecliptic plane (the planets, including Earth, all orbit the sun on about the same geometric plane). Popular Science, 8 Aug. 2018 Every 173 days, for between 31 and 37 days, the Moon is lined-up perfectly to intersect the ecliptic—the apparent path of the Sun through our daytime sky. Jamie Carter, Forbes, 6 Feb. 2023 That orbit also lies on a plane, but it’s slightly tilted, about 5 degrees relative to the ecliptic plane. Brian McNoldy, The Conversation, 23 Apr. 2021 Part of the reason why we’re limited in our solar understanding is that scientists only have one good direction at which to look at the sun: the ecliptic plane. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 10 Feb. 2023 Earth orbits the sun in a certain plane – it’s called the ecliptic plane. Brian McNoldy, The Conversation, 23 Apr. 2021 The main asteroid belt is in close alignment with the ecliptic plane, or the same plane that includes Earth’s orbit around the sun. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 6 Feb. 2023
The ascending node is where the Moon moves into the northern ecliptic. Rebecca Boyle, TIME, 8 Apr. 2024 The Saros, then, is just a nice round interval during which all these cycles repeat a whole number of times: 223 passes through the new moon is almost exactly equal to 242 laps in and out of the ecliptic, which is in turn almost exactly equal to 239 oscillations in the moon’s apparent size. Joshua Sokol, Quanta Magazine, 5 Apr. 2024 From the codex’s astronomical tables, researchers know that the Maya tracked the lunar nodes, the two points where the orbit of the Moon intersects with the ecliptic– the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, which from our point of view is the path of the Sun through our sky. Kimberly H. Breuer, Discover Magazine, 5 Apr. 2024 Like lunar eclipses, solar eclipses align with the moon’s nodes, invisible points in the solar system where the sun’s ecliptic and the moon’s orbital path intersect. Emily Newhouse, Allure, 5 Apr. 2024 All star signs are signs of the zodiac—constellations on the ecliptic, a line in the sky that the sun appears to follow. Jamie Carter, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 Solar eclipses occur because the moon’s orbital path intercepts what astronomers call the ecliptic—the apparent path the sun takes through our daytime sky. Jamie Carter, Forbes, 9 Feb. 2024 The moon’s orbital path is slightly inclined (by about 5º) to that ecliptic, intersecting it twice each month. Jamie Carter, Forbes, 9 Feb. 2024 That’s partly because, unlike the Voyager probes, New Horizons is flying close to the ecliptic—the plane of Earth’s orbit. Diane Hope, Ars Technica, 12 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ecliptic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English ekliptik, borrowed from Latin eclīpticus, borrowed from Greek ekleiptikós, from ekleípein "to be obscured (of a celestial body)" + -t-, verbal adjective ending + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at eclipse entry 1


Middle English ekliptik, borrowed from Medieval Latin eclīptica (short for eclīptica līnea "ecliptic line"), from feminine of Latin eclīpticus ecliptic entry 1; so called because eclipses occur on or near the ecliptic

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ecliptic was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near ecliptic

Cite this Entry

“Ecliptic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: the great circle of the celestial sphere on which the sun appears to move among the stars

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