Definition of orbit in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈɔːbɪt/


1The regularly repeated elliptical course of a celestial object or spacecraft about a star or planet: the Earth’s orbit around the sun
More example sentences
  • He therefore accepted Kepler's theory of elliptical orbits for the planets and tested Kepler's laws by direct observation.
  • Similarly, Kepler's discovery of the elliptical orbit of the planets did not sit well with the religious establishment.
  • Most planets still had regular orbits, and cycles of days, months, and years.
course, path, circuit, track, trajectory, rotation, revolution, circle, cycle, round
rare circumgyration
1.1One complete circuit round an orbited body: the satellite will complete one orbit every 12 hours
More example sentences
  • At these higher orbits it can take many hours to complete a single orbit.
  • The craft itself remained in orbit for nearly six months, and completed 1400 orbits of the Earth.
  • This means that after eight of our orbits Venus has circuited the Sun 13 times, and returns to more or less the same position relative to us.
1.2 [mass noun] The state of moving in an orbit: the earth is in orbit around the sun
More example sentences
  • However, a propellant-free way of moving objects around in orbit very slowly is under development.
  • Galileo has operated in orbit more than three times longer than its originally planned mission.
  • During its final years in orbit, the Russian space station Mir suffered a number of mishaps.
1.3The path of an electron round an atomic nucleus.
Example sentences
  • Quarks are bound together by the strong nuclear force to form protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei, while the electromagnetic force holds electrons in orbits around the nucleus.
  • Rydberg atoms do not move or collide because they are laser cooled, but the electron orbits of adjacent atoms can overlap.
  • For many atoms, the combinations of electrons in their orbits cancel each other out.
2An area of activity, interest, or influence: audiences drawn largely from outside the Party orbit
More example sentences
  • It should not be concluded from this that Norman and Plantagenet kings were reluctant to see the orbit of their influence enlarged.
  • It places any criticism of government policy in the orbit of illegal activity.
  • What the high court has done, however, is to at least bring the torturers within the orbit of the law, subject to some form of accountability and judicial restraint.
sphere, sphere of influence, area of activity, range, reach, scope, ambit, compass, sweep, jurisdiction, authority, remit, span of control, domain, realm, province, territory, preserve, department, turf
informal bailiwick
3 Anatomy The cavity in the skull of a vertebrate that contains the eye; the eye socket.
Example sentences
  • Because the orbit (eye socket) is made of bone it cannot expand to accommodate the protruding eyeball.
  • Orbital inflammation is often caused by sinus infection because of the multiple venous channels that exists between the sinuses and orbits.
  • The orbit is a socket for the eyeball, muscles, nerves, and vessels that are necessary for proper functioning of the eye.
3.1The area around the eye of a bird or other animal.
Example sentences
  • The scales vary in form and size from the orbit, head, gill-covers, fins and trunk areas.
  • The margins of the orbits are raised above the general surface of the skull.

verb (orbits, orbiting, orbited)

[with object]
1(Of a celestial object or spacecraft) move in orbit round (a star or planet): Mercury orbits the Sun
More example sentences
  • Simply provide us with the exact mass, orbital speed and orbital distance of an undiscovered gas giant planet orbiting a star near our solar system.
  • The public has an unprecedented opportunity to suggest places on Mars that should be photographed from a spacecraft orbiting that planet.
  • After astronomers find a planet orbiting a given star, they continue to monitor that star in the hope of detecting additional planets.
1.1 [no object] Move in a circle: the discs spun and orbited slowly
More example sentences
  • In the evening, walking out from work, I go by a house with chickens walking in the yard and a small dog orbiting on a chain.
  • As they orbited they swept up debris in the dust clouds.
  • Once the gas for the ion engine is used up, it will continue to orbit, but will eventually spiral lower until it crashes.
revolve round, circle round, go round, travel round
rare encircle
1.2Put (a satellite) into orbit: France has been orbiting satellites with her own launcher
More example sentences
  • Militaries that can not afford communications satellites of their own can lease transponders on the satellites orbited by other countries, and some - like Australia - have already done so.
  • If the Soviets could orbit Sputnik, who was to say that they were not proceeding to develop the capability for a space-based missile attack?


into orbit

informal Into a state of heightened activity, anger, or excitement: his goal sent the fans into orbit
More example sentences
  • The noise had sent the stadium into orbit and Dublin just needed another score or two to fix Tyrone with a stare and make them think that losing was a possibility.
  • Any compliment she would give him in the past would send him into orbit.
  • If you are an aficionado of Spanish wines, the list here will send you into orbit.


Mid 16th century (in sense 3 of the noun): from Latin orbita 'course, track' (in medieval Latin 'eye socket'), feminine of orbitus 'circular', from orbis 'ring'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: orbit

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.