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See also: Orbit


Diagram of a planet's orbit, illustrating Kepler's second law.
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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English orbite, orbita, from Latin orbita (course, track, impression, mark).



orbit (countable and uncountable, plural orbits)

  1. (astronomy) A circular or elliptical path of a celestial object or spacecraft around a star, planet, or moon, especially a periodic elliptical revolution.
    Hyponyms: Clarke orbit, graveyard orbit, Hohmann transfer orbit, last photon orbit, Lissajous orbit, low Earth orbit, lunar orbit, Lyapunov orbit, Molniya orbit, osculating orbit, parking orbit, subsynchronous orbit, synchronous orbit
    1. One complete circuit round an orbited body.
      The Moon's orbit around the Earth takes nearly one month to complete.
    2. (uncountable) The state of moving in an orbit.
    3. (physics) The path of an electron around an atomic nucleus.
    4. (pinball) A path for the ball on the outer edge of the playfield, usually connected so that the ball entering in one end will come out of the other.
  2. A sphere of influence; an area or extent of activity, interest, or control.
    In the post WWII era, several eastern European countries came into the orbit of the Soviet Union.
    The convenience store was a heavily travelled point in her daily orbit, as she purchased both cigarettes and lottery tickets there.
  3. (anatomy) The bony cavity in the skull of a vertebrate containing the eyeball.
    Synonyms: eye socket, cranial orbit
    1. (zoology) The area around the eye of a bird or other animal.
  4. (mathematics) A collection of points related by the evolution function of a dynamical system.
  5. (geometry, group theory) The subset of elements of a set X to which a given element can be moved by members of a specified group of transformations that act on X.
  6. (informal) A state of increased excitement, activity, or anger.
    Dad went into orbit when I told him that I'd crashed the car.
    • 2017 September 18, McGarry, Andrew, “AFL finals week two: The heroes and villains from the elimination semi-finals”, in ABC News[1], archived from the original on 2 October 2018:
      Given a veritable Pagan's Paddock by the Cats to work in on Friday night, Danger booted two goals in the first seven minutes to send Geelong fans into orbit.

Usage notes[edit]

When referring to astronomical orbits, "in orbit" and "on orbit" have somewhat different meanings. In general, a body is said to be "in orbit" if it is in freefall going around another body; while something happens "on orbit" if it occurs aboard an orbiting spacecraft. Thus one might say, "The space capsule is in orbit, and the astronauts inside are performing experiments on orbit."

Derived terms[edit]



orbit (third-person singular simple present orbits, present participle orbiting, simple past and past participle orbited)

  1. (astronomy) To circle or revolve around another object.
    The Earth orbits the Sun.
    1. To place an object (e.g. a satellite) into an orbit around a planet.
      A rocket was used to orbit the satellite.
      Synonym: launch
  2. To move around the general vicinity of something.
    The harried mother had a cloud of children orbiting her, begging for sweets.
    Synonyms: circumambulate, tag along
  3. To move in a circle.
  4. (transitive) To center (around).
  5. (transitive, dating) To continue to follow and/or engage with someone via social media after breaking up with them.




See also[edit]






  1. past participle of orbi