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Alternative formsEdit


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.

Proper nounEdit

Charles' Wain

  1. (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 (US), Plough, Wain
    • 1597William Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV ii 1
      Charles waine is ouer the new Chimney, and yet our horse not packt.
    • 1874, Thomas Hardy, chapter VI, in Far from the Madding Crowd:
      Charles's Wain was getting towards a right angle with the Pole star, and Gabriel concluded that it must be about nine o'clock.
    • 1920H.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.


See alsoEdit