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noun (1)

or·​bit ˈȯr-bət How to pronounce orbit (audio)
: the bony socket of the eye
The orbit encloses and protects the eye and its appendages.


2 of 3

noun (2)

: a path described by one body in its revolution about another (as by the earth about the sun or by an electron about an atomic nucleus)
also : one complete revolution of a body describing such a path
: a circular path
: a range or sphere of activity or influence
within the president's orbit


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orbited; orbiting; orbits

transitive verb

: to revolve in an orbit around : circle
: to send up and make revolve in an orbit
orbit a satellite

intransitive verb

: to travel in circles
Choose the Right Synonym for orbit

range, gamut, compass, sweep, scope, orbit mean the extent that lies within the powers of something (as to cover or control).

range is a general term indicating the extent of one's perception or the extent of powers, capacities, or possibilities.

the entire range of human experience

gamut suggests a graduated series running from one possible extreme to another.

a performance that ran the gamut of emotions

compass implies a sometimes limited extent of perception, knowledge, or activity.

your concerns lie beyond the narrow compass of this study

sweep suggests extent, often circular or arc-shaped, of motion or activity.

the book covers the entire sweep of criminal activity

scope is applicable to an area of activity, predetermined and limited, but somewhat flexible.

as time went on, the scope of the investigation widened

orbit suggests an often circumscribed range of activity or influence within which forces work toward accommodation.

within that restricted orbit they tried to effect social change

Examples of orbit in a Sentence

Verb The Moon orbits the Earth. The satellites orbit at different heights. The Moon orbits around the Earth.
Recent Examples on the Web
Rubio recently broke the record for the longest space mission for a U.S. astronaut, beating Mark Vande Hei's record of 355 days in orbit. Jon Michael Raasch Fox News, Fox News, 19 Sep. 2023 Numerous other companies are also in the process of sending satellite fleets into low and medium orbits. Pouria Nazemi, Scientific American, 18 Sep. 2023 SpaceX is providing a new look at the company’s second-generation Starlink satellites — this time from Earth’s orbit. Michael Kan, PCMAG, 18 Sep. 2023 The two potential polar ring galaxies—in which a ring of hydrogen gas orbits the main spiral disk at a 90-degree angle—are highly unusual objects. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 15 Sep. 2023 Scientists used the Ariane 5 rocket, a special heavy-duty launch vehicle developed and operated by French company Arianespace with the European Space Agency, to lift JWST into orbit from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 12 Sep. 2023 Day by day, Musk’s companies control more of the Internet, the power grid, the transportation system, objects in orbit, the nation’s security infrastructure, and its energy supply. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 With China’s economic slowdown and President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of political power, Biden sees an opportunity to bring more nations — including Vietnam and Cambodia — into America’s orbit. Josh Boak and Aamer Madhani, BostonGlobe.com, 10 Sep. 2023 Its orbit has been mapped and it isn't considered a threat. George Petras, USA TODAY, 8 Sep. 2023
Currently orbiting the sun 50 million miles from Earth, Bennu is about one-third of a mile across, roughly the size of the Empire State Building but shaped like a spinning top. Marcia Dunn, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 Sep. 2023 After breaking the record earlier this month for the longest continuous amount of time spent in space by an American, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio on Thursday hit one year of orbiting Earth. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 21 Sep. 2023 The satellite will orbit Earth from 350 miles above the planet’s surface, writes the New York Times’ Katrina Miller and Kenneth Chang. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 7 Sep. 2023 The group spent six months on board the orbiting laboratory after launching to the station in March. Jackie Wattles, CNN, 4 Sep. 2023 Four years later, Recinos is still orbiting planet Maha, as evidenced by her presence at Haq’s one-year Twitchaversary in downtown L.A., along with Cannaclubbers repping UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and San Diego State University. Adam Tschorn, Los Angeles Times, 14 Sep. 2023 The satellite relies on radar to measure tiny shifts in the ground toward or away from the orbiting craft, said Tim Wright, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds in England. Maya Wei-Haas, New York Times, 12 Sep. 2023 India has since sent Aditya-L1, a rocket meant to eventually orbit the sun, which has already completed two revolutions around the Earth. Jenny Goldsberry, Washington Examiner, 10 Sep. 2023 No signs of alien technology orbiting some distant star. Popular Mechanics, 8 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English orbite, orbita, borrowed from Medieval Latin orbita (probably as translation of Greek trochiá), going back to Latin, "track, rut, path of a heavenly body" — more at orbit entry 2

Noun (2)

borrowed from Latin orbita "track, rut, path of a heavenly body," probably derivative of an adjective stem *orbi-t- "wheel-like," derivative of orbis "disk, circle, wheel" — more at orb entry 1


derivative of orbit entry 2

First Known Use

Noun (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1696, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1943, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of orbit was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near orbit

Cite this Entry

“Orbit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orbit. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 noun
or·​bit ˈȯr-bət How to pronounce orbit (audio)
: one of the bone-lined cavities for the eyes in the vertebrate skull

called also eye socket


2 of 3 noun
: the path taken by one body circling around another body
the orbit of the earth around the sun
also : one complete circle that makes up such a path


3 of 3 verb
: to move in an orbit around : circle
the moon orbits the earth
: to send up so as to move in an orbit
orbit a satellite


Middle English orbit "eye socket," from Latin orbita (same meaning), from earlier orbita "path, rut, track"


from Latin orbita "path, rut, track"

Medical Definition


or·​bit ˈȯr-bət How to pronounce orbit (audio)
: the bony cavity perforated for the passage of nerves and blood vessels that occupies the lateral front of the skull immediately beneath the frontal bone on each side and encloses and protects the eye and its appendages

called also eye socket, orbital cavity

orbital adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on orbit

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