What’s your sign? It’s not just a cheesy pick-up line — your zodiac sign might say more about you than you think. But what does each zodiac sign mean and why do they each have different symbols?
The word zodiac itself refers to a drawn diagram in the universe that encircles 12 constellations. Each of those constellations is known as a zodiac sign (also known as an astrology sign).
If you were born under a particular zodiac sign, it means the sun was passing through that constellation on the day you were born.
The zodiac calendar begins with the Aries sign (for those born between March 21 and April 19). Aries comes from the Latin ariēs, meaning “ram,” and is a four-star constellation in the shape of a ram’s head and horns.
Since Aries begins at the March equinox, it symbolizes rebirth and new beginnings.
- Aries personality traits - courage, passion, impulsivity
- Most compatible - Libra and Sagittarius
- Least compatible - Virgo and Scorpio
If you were born between April 20 and May 20, you were born under the sign of Taurus the bull. It comes from the Latin taurus and the Greek tauros (“bull”), and represents the large constellation of Taurus, which resembles the head of a bull.
Those born between May 21 and June 20 were born under Gemini, which means “twins” or “born together” in Latin.
The Gemini constellation is made up of the stars Castor and Pollux. It’s often represented by the Roman numeral II (meaning “two”).
- Gemini personality traits - fun, cheerfulness, friendliness
- Most compatible - Libra and Aquarius
- Least compatible - Scorpio and Aries
We use the word cancer to describe a malignant tumor, but even that comes from the Latin cancer meaning “crab” (think of the way a tumor grows, like the outstretched legs of a crab).
The astrological sign between June 21 and July 22 comes from the Cancer constellation, shaped like — you guessed it — a crab.
Leo is Latin for “lion” for those born between July 23 and August 22. The Leo constellation resembles the head and shoulders of a lion, and is often represented by a hook-shaped symbol that looks like the pattern of its six stars.
- Leo personality traits - leadership, confidence, showmanship
- Most compatible - Aries and Sagittarius
- Least compatible - Capricorn and Pisces
Virgo, from the Latin virgo meaning “virgin,” is the last sign of the summer season (August 23 – September 22). It’s represented by the y-shaped Virgo constellation (symbolizing the crossed legs of a chaste woman), the second-largest constellation in the sky.
The Libra sign begins at the autumn equinox (September 23 – October 22).
Libra means “balance” in Latin (also the source of the pound measurement unit, which is why we abbreviate pound as lb). The Libra constellation is named after its resemblance to balancing scales.
- Libra personality traits - creativity, fairness, charm
- Most compatible - Gemini and Aquarius
- Least compatible - Taurus and Pisces
It’s easy to see how we got the English word scorpion from the Latin scorpio. Dated from October 23 to November 21, it’s one of the only signs that has a different name from its constellation (the scorpion-shaped Scorpius).
- Scorpio personality traits - intensity, introspection, passion
- Most compatible - Cancer and Pisces
- Least compatible - Gemini and Aries
People born under the Sagittarius sign (between November 22 and December 21) are known as Sagittarians, referring to the Latin word for “archer” (sagitta).
Its constellation resembles a centaur holding a bow, though it’s also known as “the Teapot” due to its kettle-like form.
- Sagittarius personality traits - open-mindedness, scholarship, friendliness
- Most compatible - Aries and Leo
- Least compatible - Taurus and Cancer
The Capricorn sign begins at the winter solstice (December 22 – January 19). The word Capricorn comes from the Latin capri (goat) and cornu (horn).
It’s often symbolized by a horned goat that is also part fish, known as the Sea-Goat, since the Capricornus constellation resembles a goat in water.
- Capricorn personality traits - ambition, practicality, goal-oriented
- Most compatible - Taurus and Virgo
- Least compatible - Gemini and Leo
The word Aquarius comes from the Latin aquarius, meaning “water carrier” or “water bearer.” Waves of water, which resemble the Aquarius constellation, often represent those born between January 20 and February 18.
- Aquarius personality traits - intelligence, eccentricity, innovation
- Most compatible - Gemini and Libra
- Least compatible - Cancer and Virgo
The last sign on the zodiac calendar is Pisces, which comes from the Latin word for “fish” (plural) because the Pisces constellation looks like two fish attached by their tales. The Pisces sign represents those born between February 19 and March 20.
- Pisces personality traits - mysticism, selflessness, compassion
- Most compatible - Cancer and Scorpio
- Least compatible - Leo and Libra
In addition to their order on the zodiac calendar, these astrological signs can be grouped into the four zodiac elements: fire signs, earth signs, air signs, and water signs.
Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are considered the fire signs due to their fiery, passionate, and spontaneous personalities.
They’re not ones to avoid conflict or take bad news sitting down. The fire signs are often creative leaders since they are not afraid to take risks or push the envelope.
Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are known as the earth signs, since they tend to be “down to earth.”
They value calmness, peace, and family values, all while being focused on the result that is best for everyone. Earth signs enjoy practical ideas and rational thinking over spontaneity.
Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are considered air signs because they value intellectualism and logic (hence them being “up in the clouds” more than other signs).
They enjoy pondering and debating the philosophical implications of an issue, and would rather think through all the possible consequences of a problem than act rashly. Air signs are considered the most thoughtful and polite signs.
Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are known as the water signs because their emotions and empathy flow just like water.
Unlike the air signs, water signs follow their intuition and feel others’ emotions very sensitively. Water signs tend to be more sentimental and creative than other signs.
Each zodiac sign also has its own modality — cardinal, fixed, and mutable — based on when it occurs during the season.
Each cardinal sign falls on an equinox or solstice, meaning that they’re the first sign of their respective season. For this reason, cardinal signs are known for being visionaries and leaders.
- Aries - spring
- Cancer - summer
- Libra - fall
- Capricorn - winter
Fixed signs fall in the middle of their seasons. They’re known for stability and independence, especially amidst changes or challenges in their lives.
- Taurus - spring
- Leo - summer
- Scorpio - fall
- Aquarius - winter
Mutable signs end their seasons, signaling that new things are coming. Those born under mutable signs tend to be flexible, adaptable, and open-minded.
- Gemini - spring
- Virgo - summer
- Sagittarius - fall
- Pisces - winter
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