Constellation Origin & Pronunciation

All modern constellations were codified in the European scientific subculture prior to the 19th century. As Latin was the international language of science up to that time, Latin governs the pronunciation of constellation names.

Latter day English speaking astronomers parsed the Latin using English pronunciation norms — we say "ō–RĪ–ǝn" and not "ō–RĒ–ôn" — and regional variations took hold. The result is a contemporary hodgepodge of competing pronunciation norms.

There are also different conventions for pronouncing Latin. The main difference relevant here concerns the genitive dipthong ae, which is pronounced ā in ecclesiastical (Catholic Church) Latin and ē in English (scientific) Latin.

As in the Romance languages and not as in English, syllables usually begin with a consonant and end with a vowel, and double consonants at the end of a syllable are split so that the second consonant starts the next syllable. The next to last syllable is stressed only if it contains a long vowel or dipthong, otherwise the stress falls on the third from last syllable.

In general I've relied on the pronunciation given by the American Heritage Dictionary, and use its phonetic symbols. But I've amended a few pronunciations to respect the Latin or to match the nominative and genitive stems.

On the one hand, it's usually picayune to focus on pronunciation. On the other hand, the current confusion in pronunciation standards, the result of decades of indifference, should be rolled back.

Constellation Names Desktop Image



Pronunciation Key
ā – pasteă – past
â – bare
ē – beetĕ – bet
ī – biteĭ – bit
ō – goŏ – got
ô – paw
ū – cootŭ – cut
û – urge
ǝ – the, about
j – jetg – get
primary accented syllables are in CAPS and joined with a hyphen (–); secondary accented syllables are joined with a dot (·).

ᐅ  – Indicates an unusual or commonly mispronounced name.

Entry Format
Abbr.NominativeNominative Pronunciation
GenitiveGenitive Pronunciation
FigureOrigin

Gray italic text — most or all of the constellation is located below declination –40°, the southern limit of ancient constellations.


 

And

Andromedaăn–DRŎ–mĭ–dǝ
Andromedaeăn–DRŎ–mĭ–dē
the Chained MaidenPtolemy, 150 (daughter of Cepheus)

Ant

AntliaANT–lē–ǝ
AntliaeANT–lē–ē
the Air PumpNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Aps

Apus

Ā–pŭs

Apodis

ā–PŌ–dĭs

the Bird of Paradise

Petrus Plancius, 1597

Aqr

Aquariusǝ–KWÂR–ē–ǝs
Aquariiǝ–KWÂR–ē–ī
the Water BearerBabylonian; Ptolemy, 15 (eleventh sign of the zodiac)

Aql

Aquilaᐅ ĂK–wē–lǝ (accent on first syllable)
Aquilaeᐅ ĂK–wē–lē
the EaglePtolemy, 150

Ara

Ara

ÂR–ǝ

Arae

ÂR–ē

the Altar

Ptolemy, 150

Ari

AriesÂR–ēz
Arietisâr–Ī–ǝ–tĭs
the RamBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (first sign of the zodiac)

Aur

Aurigaᐅ ô–RĪ–gǝ ("aw" first syllable, long "I" second syllable)
Aurigaeᐅ ô–RĪ–gē
the CharioteerBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150

Boo

Boötesᐅ Bō–Ō–tēz (two long "O"s, awkward to pronounce)
Boötisᐅ Bō–Ō–tĭs
the HerdsmanBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (among oldest constellations; also "Bear Watcher")

Cae

Caelumᐅ SĒ–lŭm (soft "C", as in "Caesar")
Caeliᐅ SĒ–lī
the Engraving ToolNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Cam

Camelopardalisᐅ kǝ–mĕl·ō–PĂR–dǝ–lĭs (accent on 2nd and 4th syllables)
Camelopardalisᐅ kǝ–mĕl·ō–PĂR–dǝ–lĭs
the GiraffePetrus Plancius, 1612

Cnc

CancerKĂN–sǝr
CancriKĂNG–krī
the CrabBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (fourth sign of zodiac)

CVn

Canes Venaticiᐅ KĀ–nēz vĭ–NĂT–ĭ–sī (hard "C", accent on third to last syllable)
Canum Venaticorumᐅ KĀ–nŭm vǝ–năt·ĭ–KŌR–ǝm (accent on next to last syllable)
the Hunting DogsJohannes Hevelius, 1651

CMa

Canis MajorKĀ–nĭs MĀ–jǝr
Canis MajorisKĀ–nĭs mǝ–JÔR–ĭs
the Great DogPtolemy, 150

CMi

Canis MinorKĀ–nĭs MĪ–nǝr
Canis MinorisKĀ–nĭs mī–NÔR–ĭs
the Lesser DogPtolemy, 150

Cap

Capricornuskăp·rĭ–KÔR–nǝs "Capricorn" is the astrological form!
Capricornikăp·rĭ–KÔR–nī
the Sea GoatBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (tenth sign in zodiac; goat with fish tail)

Car

Carina

kǝ–RĒ–nǝ

Carinae

kǝ–RĒ–nē

the Keel

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763 (from the ancient constellation Argo Navis)

Cas

Cassiopeiaᐅ kăs·ē–ǝ–PĒ–ǝ (the "O" is not long)
Cassiopeiaeᐅ kăs·ē–ǝ–PĒ–yē
the Seated QueenPtolemy, 150 (Andromeda's mother)

Cen

Centaurussĕn–TÔR–ǝs
Centaurisĕn–TÔR–ī
the CentaurBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (one of the most southern of ancient constellations)

Cep

Cepheusᐅ SĒ–fē–ǝs (accent on first syllable)
Cepheiᐅ SĒ–fē–ī
the KingPtolemy, 150 (Andromeda's father)

Cet

CetusSĒ–tǝs
CetiSĒ–tī
the Sea MonsterPtolemy, 150 (Andromeda's attacker)

Cha

Chamaeleon

kǝ–MĒ–lē–ǝn

Chamaeleontis

kǝ–mē·lē–ÔN–tĭs

the Chameleon

Petrus Plancius, 1597

Cir

Circinus

SÛR–sǝ–nǝs

Circini

SÛR–sǝ–nī

the Drafting Compass

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Col

Columbakǝ–LŬM–bǝ
Columbaekǝ–LŬM–bē
the DovePetrus Plancius, 1597 (Noah's dove)

Com

Coma Berenicesᐅ KŌ–mǝ bĕr·ǝ–NĪ–sēz (penultimate accent, long "I")
Comae Berenicesᐅ KŌ–mē bĕr·ǝ–NĪ–sēz
Berenice's HairTycho Brahe (?), 1602 (Queen of Egypt c. 240 BCE)

CrA

Corona Australiskǝ–RŌ–nǝ ŏ–STRĀ–lĭs
Coronae Australiskǝ–RŌ–nē ŏ–STRĀ–lĭs
the Southern CrownPtolemy, 150 (most southern ancient constellation)

CrB

Corona Borealiskǝ–RŌ–nǝ bōr·ē–ĂL–ĭs
Coronae Borealiskǝ–RŌ–nē bōr·ē–ĂL–ĭs
the Northern CrownPtolemy, 150

Crv

CorvusKÔR–vǝs
CorviKÔR–vī
the CrowBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150

Crt

CraterKRĀ–tǝr
Crateriskrā–TÂR–ĭs
the CupPtolemy, 150

Cru

Crux

KRŬKS

Crucis

KRŪ–sĭs

the Southern Cross

Petrus Plancius, 1597 (carved out of ancient Centaurus)

Cyg

CygnusSĬG–nǝs
CygniSĬG–nī
the SwanPtolemy, 150

Del

Delphinusdĕl–FĪ–nǝs
Delphinidĕl–FĪ–nī
the DolphinPtolemy, 150

Dor

Dorado

dǝ–RÄ–dō

Doradus

dǝ–RÄ–dǝs

the Dolphinfish

Petrus Plancius, 1597

Dra

DracoDRĀ–kō
Draconisdră–KŌ–nĭs
the DragonPtolemy, 150

Eql

Equuleusĭ–KWŪ–lē–ǝs
Equuleiĭ–KWŪ–lē–ī
the Little HorsePtolemy, 150

Eri

Eridanusᐅ ĭ–RĬD·n–ǝs (very short "A" in penultimate syllable)
Eridaniᐅ ĭ–RĬD·n–ī
the RiverPtolemy, 150 (a mythological river)

For

FornaxFŌR–năks
Fornacisfôr–NĀ–sĭs
the FurnaceNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Gem

GeminiJĔM–ǝ–nī
Geminorumjĕm·ǝ–NÔR–ǝm
the TwinsBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (third sign in the zodiac)

Gru

Grus

GRŪS

Gruis

GRŪ–ĭs

the Crane

Petrus Plancius, 1597

Her

HerculesHÛR–kyǝ–lēz
HerculisHÛR–kyǝ–lĭs
HerculesPtolemy, 150 (in myth, the strongest of mortal heroes)

Hor

Horologium

hôr·ǝ–LŌ–jē–ǝm

Horologii

hôr·ǝ–LŌ–jē–ī

the Clock

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Hya

HydraHĪ–drǝ
HydraeHĪ–drē
the Water SnakePtolemy, 150 (Latin name denotes a female serpent)

Hyi

Hydrus

HĪ–drǝs

Hydri

HĪ–drī

the Water Snake

Petrus Plancius, 1597 (Latin name denotes a male serpent)

Ind

Indus

ĬN–dǝs

Indi

ĬN–dī

the Indian

Petrus Plancius, 1597

Lac

Lacertalǝ–SÛR–tǝ
Lacertaelǝ–SÛR–tē
the LizardJohannes Hevelius, 1687

Leo

LeoLĒ–ō
Leonislē–Ō–nĭs
the LionBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (fifth sign in the zodiac)

LMi

Leo MinorLĒ–ō MĪ–nǝr
Leonis Minorislē–Ō–nĭs mī–NÔR–ĭs
the Lesser LionJohannes Hevelius, 1687

Lep

LepusLĒ–pǝs
LeporisLĔP–ŏr–ĭs
the HarePtolemy, 150

Lib

LibraLĒ–brǝ
LibraeLĒ–brē
the ScalesBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (seventh sign in the zodiac)

Lup

LupusLŪ–pǝs
LupiLŪP–ī
the WolfPtolemy, 150 (most southern of ancient constellations)

Lyn

LynxLĬNKS
LyncisLĬN–sĭs
the LynxJohannes Hevelius, 1687

Lyr

LyraLĪ–rǝ
LyraeLĪ–rē
the LyrePtolemy, 150

Men

MensaMĔN–sǝ
MensaeMĔN–sē
the TableNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763 (from Table Mountain)

Mic

Microscopiummī·krǝ–SKŌ–pē–ǝm
Microscopiimī·krǝ–SKŌ–pē–ī
the MicroscopeNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Mon

Monocerosᐅ mǝ–NŎS–ǝr–ǝs (rhymes with "rhinoceros")
Monocerotisᐅ mǝ·nŏ–sĕr–Ō–tĭs (note change in accented syllable)
the UnicornPetrus Plancius, 1612

Mus

Musca

MŪS–kǝ

Muscae

MŪS–kē

the Fly

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Nor

Norma

NÔR–mǝ

Normae

NÔR–mē

the Carpenter's Square

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763 (includes the south celestial pole)

Oct

Octans

ÔK–tănz

Octantis

ôk–TĂN–tĭs

the Octant

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Oph

Ophiuchusᐅ ŏf·ē–YŪ–kǝs (four syllables)
Ophiuchiᐅ ŏf·ē–YŪ–kī
the Serpent BearerPtolemy, 150

Ori

Orionō–RĪ–ǝn
Orionisō–RĪ–ǝ–nǐs
the HunterBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150

Pav

Pavo

PĀ–vō

Pavonis

pǝ–VŌ–nĭs

the Peacock

Petrus Plancius, 1597

Peg

PegasusPĀ–gǝ–sǝs
PegasiPĀ–gǝ–sī
the Winged HorsePtolemy, 150

Per

PerseusPÂR–sē–ǝs
PerseiPÂR–sē–ī
the HeroPtolemy, 150 (Andromeda's rescuer)

Phe

PhoenixFĒ–nĭks
Phoenicisfē–NĪ–sĭs
the PhoenixPetrus Plancius, 1597

Pic

Pictor

PĬK–tǝr

Pictoris

pĭk–TÔR–ĭs

the Painter

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763 (from Painter's Easel)

Psc

PiscesPĪ–sēz
PisciumPĪS–ē–ǝm
the FishesBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (twelfth sign in the zodiac)

PsA

Piscis Austrinusᐅ PĪ–sĭs ôs–TRĪ–nǝs (two long "I"s)
Piscis Austriniᐅ PĪ–sĭs ôs–TRĪ–nī
the Southern FishPtolemy, 150

Pup

PuppisPŬP–ĭs
PuppisPŬP–ĭs
the SternNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763 (from the ancient constellation Argo Navis)

Pyx

PyxisPĬKS–ĭs
PyxidisPĬKS–ǝ–dĭs
the Magnetic CompassNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763 (from the ancient constellation Argo Navis)

Ret

Reticulum

rĭ–TĬK–yǝ–lǝm

Reticulii

rǝ–TĬK–yǝ–lī

the Reticle

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Sge

Sagittaᐅ sǝ–JĬT–ǝ (accent on middle syllable)
Sagittaeᐅ sǝ–JĬT–ē
the ArrowPtolemy, 150

Sgr

Sagittariussă·jĭ–TÂR–ē–ǝs
Sagittariisă·jĭ–TÂR–ē–ī
the ArcherBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (ninth sign in the zodiac)

Sco

ScorpiusSKŌR–pē–ǝs "Scorpio" is the astrological form!
ScorpiiSKŌR–pē–ī
the ScorpionBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (eighth sign in the zodiac)

Scl

SculptorSKŬLP–tǝr
Sculptorisskŭlp–TÔR–ĭs
the SculptorNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763 (from Sculptor's Studio)

Sct

Scutumᐅ SKŪT–ǝm ("SKOOT" not "SKUT")
Scutiᐅ SKŪT–ī
the ShieldJohannes Hevelius, 1687

Ser

SerpensSÛR–pǝnz
Serpentissûr–PĔN–tĭs
the SerpentPtolemy, 150 (comprises Serpens Caput [head] and Serpens Cauda [tail])

Sex

SextansSĔKS–tǝnz
Sextantissĕks–TĂN–tĭs
the SextantNicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Tau

TaurusTÔR–ǝs
TauriTÔR–ī
the BullBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (second sign in the zodiac)

Tel

Telescopium

tĕl·ĭ–SKŌ–pē–ǝm

Telescopii

tĕl·ĭ–SKŌ–pē–ī

the Telescope

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763

Tri

Triangulumtrī–ĂNG–gyǝ–lǝm
Triangulitrī–ĂNG–gyǝ–ī
the TrianglePtolemy, 150

TrA

Triangulum Australe

trī–ĂNG–gyǝ–lǝm ôs–TRĀ–lē

Trianguli Australis

trī–ĂNG–gyǝ–lī ôs–TRĀ–līs

the Southern Triangle

Petrus Plancius, 1597

Tuc

Tucana

tū–KĀ–nǝ

Tucanae

tū–KĀ–nē

the Toucan

Petrus Plancius, 1597

UMa

Ursa MajorÛR–sǝ MĀ–jǝr
Ursae MajorisÛR–sē mǝ–JÔR–ĭs
the Great BearPtolemy, 150 (also called the Wagon)

UMi

Ursa MinorÛR–sǝ MĪ–nǝr
Ursae MinorisÛR–sē mĭ–NÔR–ĭs
the Lesser BearPtolemy, 150

Vel

Vela

VĒ–lǝ

Velorum

vē–LÔR–ǝm

the Sails

Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, 1763 (from the ancient constellation Argo Navis)

Vir

VirgoVÛR–gō
VirginisVÛR–jĭn–ĭs
the MaidenBabylonian; Ptolemy, 150 (sixth sign in the zodiac)

Vol

Volans

VŌ–lănz

Volantis

vō–LĂN–tĭs

the Flying Fish

Petrus Plancius, 1597

Vul

Vulpeculavŭl–PĔK–yǝ–lǝ
Vulpeculaevŭl–PĔK–yǝ–lē
the FoxJohannes Hevelius, 1687

 

Last revised 11/26/13 • ©2013 Bruce MacEvoy