From Middle English Charlewayn, from Old English carles wǣn, apparently from a common Proto-Germanic *karlas wagnaz (cognate with forms in other Germanic languages). It seems that this common Germanic name originally meant the ‘peasant's wagon’ (the churls' wagon) in contrast to the ‘woman's wagon’ (Ursa Minor). Later it was interpreted as ‘Charles's wagon’ and associated with Charlemagne.
- (astronomy) A bright circumpolar asterism of the northern sky, said to resemble a wagon or cart. It is part of the constellation Ursa Major and includes the seven stars Dubhe, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid.
- Synonyms: Big Dipper, (obsolete USA) Drinking Gourd, (Asia) Northern Ladle, (obsolete) Northern Waggoner, (Britain) Plough, (obsolete Britain) Wain
- c. 1597 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Fourth, […]”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act II, scene i]:
- Charles waine is ouer the new Chimney, and yet our horse not packt.
- 1920 — H.P. Lovecraft, Polaris
- Down from the heights reels the glittering Cassiopeia as the hours wear on, while Charles’ Wain lumbers up from behind the vapour-soaked swamp trees that sway in the night-wind.