1. Printing Three asterisks in a triangular formation used to call attention to a following passage.
2. Astronomy A pattern of stars that is not one of the traditionally established, named constellations, such as the Big Dipper or the Summer Triangle. Asterisms are often named and may be composed of stars that are members of one or more constellations.
3. Mineralogy A six-rayed starlike figure optically produced in some crystal structures by reflected or transmitted light.
[Greek asterismos, constellation, from astēr, star; see ster-3 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.