Eclipse Etymology

Before leaving Greece, we should note that the word eclipse has a Greek origin. In that language ekleipsis means to "leave out," "forsake," or "fail to appear." As with many scientific terms, the less-cultured Romans adopted the Greek word, the Latin becoming eclipsis. That word (or the variant ellipsis) is directly used in English to imply a place where something is missed out, such as when a printer employs either a dash or three dots in a row. Our word eclipse, which can be used as either a noun or a verb, has gone through various spellings in English since about 1300. Variants include eclips, esclepis, enclips, eclypse, and ecleps.

An astronomical term that is extensively employed is ecliptic, referring to the apparent path of the Sun across the sky. It gets its name because that is where eclipses occur: the Moon must be crossing the ecliptic if it is to line up with the Sun, either in front of or behind the Earth. This term has also been in use for many centuries; for example, in 1391 Chaucer wrote about "the Ecliptik lyne." The word may also be used to refer to the plane of the terrestrial orbit.

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