Lo Zodiaco

Ciao tutti,

I have a question about the zodiac. There are constellations which represent animals. And I would like to know if, in Italian, the name of a constellation always matches the name of the respective animal.

For example, take the constellation "Leone", obviously "leone" can be used to refer to the constellation but also to the animal. But is that true for all constellations that are based on animals?

While I think, "Toro", "Scorpione" and "Pesci" should be obvious, too, I'd like confirmation on them. And I'm not so sure about "Ariete", "Cancro" and "Capricorno".

Also, is it correct to write the constellations with a capital first letter in Italian?
And do they need an articolo? (i.e. "il Leone" instead of just "Leone")

i segni zodiacali che si basano sugli animali
l'Ariete ariete (ovino maschio) noto anche come: montone
il Toro toro
il Cancro granchio
il Leone leone
lo Scorpione scorpione
il Capricorno una creatura mitologica, metà capra e metà pesce
i Pesci pesci
November 24, 2019


They all are names of animals, Cancro is the crab, Ariete is the male of the sheep, Capricorno is a mythical type of goat. The names come from the astronomers of ancient Greece, and in the zodiac there are only some of the many constellations (12 between 88). In italian we say "costellazione (without n) del Leone - or dei Pesci - or del Toro. With capital first letter.

Grazie mille!

I see, so "Ariete" works the same way as in German, it's a male sheep. When I tried to find out more about Ariete, I found another word: "il montone". Does "montone" have the same meaning as "ariete"? Can I use the words interchangeably?

For "cancro" I also found a different word: "granchio" - is it the same animal? Can I use the terms interchangeably?

About "Capricorno":
In German it's called "Steinbock". And it refers to these animals:
However, that animal seems to be called "stambecco (delle Alpi) " in Italian? So you would not call the actual animals "capricorni"?

Ariete and montone are interchangeable, yes, although ariete is a more elegant name (perhaps due to its Latin origin), while montone (which has a more complicated derivation from Gaulish) is more common in the cattle and food industries.

Cancro as a name for the animal is archaic, nowadays it mostly refers to either the zodiac sign or the disease (cancer).

Capricorno is the Italian name of the aigokeros, a mithological creature with the front of a horned goat and the back of a fish: currently has a drawing towards the bottom. We don't associate the zodiac sign with stambecco, especially since they have hind legs so they don't fit our image :)

As Linda pointed out, there are other zodiac signs that aren't animals, like Gemini=Gemelli=Twins, or Libra=Bilancia=Scales.

Very informative, thank you a lot!

Very good to know about Capricorno. That could have become a huge misunderstanding on my part otherwise.

One last question remains about Cancro: What is the actual modern day name of the animal associated with that zodiac sign? I already found "granchio" but now I have found another word: "gambero".

Which of these words refers to the animal behind the constellation Cancro?

The shape of the constellation is similar to a 'Y'. In old astronomical/astrological atlases it is featured more often as a crab (archaic cancrogranchio), but in some cases as a lobster (gambero), although neither the constellation nor the zodiac sign is ever called as such.

Thank you very much! Based on your answer I did some research and I found this excellent link:

While the distinction between "crabs", "crayfishes" and "lobsters" may be clear today, this distinction wasn't so clear at all in the past. And the term "cancer" was not always restricted to crabs only.

I will keep "granchio" in mind as the name for the animal behind the zodiac sign and the constellation, with a mental side note to lobsters and crayfish.

Again thank you and everyone else on this thread very much! All my questions have been extensively answers :)

I have more information but i send you the Wikipedia articles:

The zodiac is important because it reflects the circular flow of time. There are 12 signs like 12 months.

Lo zodiaco è importante perché riflette lo scorrere circolare del tempo. Ci sono 12 segni come i dodici mesi.

But the celestial constellations are many more and change according to the culture (Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Chinese, Mayans, etc...).

Però le costellazioni celesti sono molte di più e cambiano secondo la cultura (Babilonesi, persiani, egizi, cinesi, maya, ecc...)

Egyptian astronomy

Using one of your interests to learn languages can be a very inspiring thing.

Usare un proprio interesse per apprendere le lingue è una cosa molto stimolante.

Thank you for your effort of providing all those links. I am familiar with the zodiac and the constellations.

I wanted to know if I can use the names of some constellations as normal words in Italian. By convenience I started with the animals from the zodiac.

While the names of the constellations stay the same, the meaning of a name as a word in the Italian language may change, for example "Cancro". Or sometimes there may be other words to refer to the same thing as in "ariete" and "montone".

Just using the names of the constellations as normal words in Italian seemed too risky to me, so I wanted to double check, hence this thread :)

Maybe look for an Italian magazine horoscope page...

Ciao Dorothy,
that would be an excellent idea to put my Italian into practice I believe!

However, horoscopes do not teach if the names of the constellations are the same as the names for the respective animals. Hence, why I am asking the question here.

Yes, they are the same. But there are constellations that do not have names of animals. Like Andromeda, or Orione. In the astronomy, they have no meaning, but it's convenient to divide the visible Universe in 88 parts.

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