Talk:Ursa Minor

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What is being disputed is the etymological derivation of the Latin word "septentrion."

The question depends on what would be considered the celestial marker of North during the Roman period.

By, say, 44 BC, there hadn't been a pole star for a millenium, nor would there be another worthy of the name for yet another millenium to come. Due to Precession, Thuban (α Dra) had ceased to be the pole star circa 1900 BC and Polaris was still 10 degrees from the pole. Clearly, this situation is being reflected in the notion that it is seven stars that mark North.

While the naked-eye stars of Ursa Minor are both circumpolar and seven in number, it should be pointed out that there is another group of seven stars, bigger, brighter, and equally distant from the pole in Roman times. It is my contention that it was the stars of the Big Dipper or Plough that were being referred to.

Examples from the centuries when the was no significant "North Star" -

  • When, in the Odyssey, Homer has his sailors steer by "the Bear that never bathes in Ocean's stream," it is Ursa Major of which he speaks, not Ursa Minor.
  • Again, the Biblical references to "the Bear" (Job) and "the seven stars" (Amos) also point to the larger figure.

The American Heritage Dictionary isn't sure which Dipper is being referred to. (I don't have the OED available to me.)

I believe that this paragraph should be transferred to "Ursa Major."

B00P 11:20, 26 January 2006 (UTC)

The OED gives the etymology as
[ad. L. septentrio, sing. of septentriōnēs, orig. septem triōnēs, the seven stars of the constellation of the Great Bear, f. septem seven + triōnes, pl. of trio plough-ox. Cf. F. septentrion.]
The first definition in the OED is
1. pl. (chiefly as Latin.) The constellation of the Great Bear, occas. the Little Bear.
Bkell 20:55, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

Aha! Thank you very much. I shall transfer the paragraph to "Big Dipper/Plough" in five days if there are no objections. B00P 06:07, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

  • Done as threatened promised. B00P 10:42, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

The unusual explanation that septemtrio comes from "septem (seven) and trio (three), from three oxen driving a plow, which the seven stars also resemble" persists on the page. The Latin word for three is tres, not trio -- see the entry triones in Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary at Perseus. Imerologul Valah (talk) 23:16, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

The previous commentator is absolutely correct. The Latin word for three is NOT trio. The only forms of 3 that exist in the Latin language are tres, tria, trium, and tribus. In other words, "trio" isn't one of those forms. Triones (it seems to be always used in the plural, not the singular) means "oxen." Imerologul cited Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary, which is a substantial Latin-English dictionary from a century ago. You can also check it out in the Oxford Latin Dictionary (OLD), which is a more recent work and considered the standard in the field of Latin literature, although some of my fellow classicists prefer Lewis and Short. See OLD sub "triones" and "septentriones." Moreover, lest anyone think that triones is derived from tres etymologically, the OLD suggests that triones comes from the verb tero, one of whose meanings is to trod upon the earth, something oxen are wont to do. I have thus changed the text in the body of the article to reflect real Latin vocabulary.Jkellrmn (talk) 04:13, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
One additional point: according to the OLD the singular "septentrio" is acceptable, but is derived from the older plural "septentriones." Thus, I have kept the statement that the Latin for north is "septentrio," just in case anyone is wondering. Jkellrmn (talk) 04:24, 25 November 2012 (UTC)


There was a short section entitled "History" just before the "Mythology" section. It contained three short items.

  1. The first declared that the pyramids were aligned with Ursa Minor. This had a "citation needed" note appended, as well it might, as they were actually aligned to Thuban (Alpha Draconis), the previous Pole Star.
  2. Item two was about the Dragon's Wing asterism.
  3. The final item was a short version of the Dog's Tail entry in the Mythology section.

Dropping the first and third points left the section woefully thin, so it seemed best to combine the History and Mythology sections, moving the Dragon's Wing to the appropriate location.

I also tightened some of the section's verbiage slightly.

B00P (talk) 07:01, 5 May 2008 (UTC)

Kochab and Pherkad[edit]

Not trying to say much, just that these were once the "Guardians of the North," as celestial north was about the midpoint between them. I feel this should be integrated both into this and the Pole Star page. I think there have also been a few other star pairs like this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:06, 19 January 2010 (UTC)

Anwar al Farkadain[edit]

there is an error in the article and the map. i have book wrote by Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi its name is: "Suar Al-Kawakeb Al-thamaniah wa Al-Arbaen" (صور الكواكب الثمانية والأربعين) and that`s almost means: "the pictures of the 48 consetllations". so the book say that Anwar al Farkadain locate in the place which its the place of Kochab star at the map of the constellation. and the book says too that "Anwar al Farkadain" is the second brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Malasia Freeman Minor --عباد مجاهد ديرانية (talk) 17:48, 5 March 2010 (UTC).