As the Earth revolves around the Sun, the fiery center of our solar system appears to move along an ecliptic path through twelve constellations. This belt of constellations is the zodiac, a word that comes from an ancient Greek phrase meaning “circle of animals.” Within astrology, the zodiac is a system of understanding how planetary forces affect our daily lives.

Your birth chart includes the positions of the Sun, Moon, and all major planets within the zodiac at your moment of birth. Each planet or celestial body interacts with the distinct energy of its zodiac sign or birth sign to form the framework of your personality. In your so-called “big three,” the key signs are the following:

  • Sun (or star), which changes signs about every 30 days

  • Moon, which changes roughly every 2.5 days

  • Rising (or ascendant), which changes about every 2 hours

Your Sun sign shows your values and identity, while your Moon sign influences your emotional life. By contrast, your rising sign isn’t a planetary placement—it’s the zodiac sign on the Eastern horizon at your exact birth time. This sign powerfully affects your image and conscious experience of life. In fact, the horoscope for your ascendant is often the most relevant.

Know Your Sign? Skip Ahead

Already familiar with the zodiac symbols and know your star sign? Use the list below to jump right to your zodiac sign.

  • Aries (March 21 – April 19)

  • Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

  • Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

  • Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

  • Leo (July 23 – August 22)

  • Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

  • Libra (September 23 – October 22)

  • Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

  • Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

  • Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

  • Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

  • Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Zodiac Origins and Astrology

Western astrology is the ancestor of the science of astronomy. In the 2nd century, Roman astrologer Claudius Ptolemy wrote down the names and associations we know today. He noted, however, that he didn’t invent the zodiac. Instead, he compiled the wisdom of ancient cultures—including Babylon’s 12-sign system, Greek myths, and the Egyptian decans (dividing each sign into three time frames).

Ptolemy assigned characteristics that allow us to group the astrological signs. For example, each sign has a planetary ruler, classical element, and quality (or modality). In synastry, or relationship astrology, these traits determine general compatibility. The modern astrological symbols were formed later, however, during the European Renaissance.

The twelve astrological houses also each have a natural zodiac sign based on our birth or natal chart. Houses govern specific activities, like relationships or creativity, in our lives. Although the house associations begin with Aries, the houses in your birth chart begin with your rising sign. In other words, if Scorpio is your ascendant, it’s your first house; Sagittarius is your second house, and so on.

Since ancient times, the sign positions have been shifting due to Earth’s “wobble”—like a spinning top—while rotating. April 1, for instance, occurs in Aries season, but the Sun is now in Pisces on that day. Some astrologers account for that shift and use the sidereal zodiac system, but many consider the zodiac positions fixed for Sun signs. We’re following the fixed-season or tropical zodiac system in this article.

The Four Elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water

Within the zodiac, the order of the signs cycles through the four elements, which represent the changing seasons, three times. Signs of the same element are separated by 120 degrees, which is known as a trine angle that brings harmony. Thus, similar signs tend to get along, but complementary elements (fire and airearth and water) also vibe.

Element

Zodiac Signs

Personality Traits

Fire

Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Positive: Passionate, enthusiastic, spontaneous.

Misused: Aggressive, forceful. 

Earth

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Positive: Reliable, practical, sensual.

Misused: Greedy, perfectionist.

Air

Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

Positive: Intelligent, communicative, fair.

Misused: Distant, unrealistic.

Water

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Positive: Intuitive, sensitive, down-to-earth.

Misused: Resentful, self-pitying.

The Three Modalities: Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable

Each modality indicates an approach to life. You might notice that the signs of the zodiac each have a unique combination of element and modality: no two signs are the same. Generally speaking, signs that share a modality experience tension. The exception is a sign’s opposite, which has the same modality but a complementary element, creating opportunities for understanding and for growth.

Modality

Zodiac Signs

Personality Traits

Cardinal

Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn

Active, ambitious, self-reliant. Can be careless or pushy.

Fixed

Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius

Determined, secure, methodical. Can be stubborn or self-focused.

Mutable

Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces

Adaptable, open-minded, multifaceted. Can be restless or unreliable.

Zodiacs Signs: Dates and Meaning

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

As a cardinal fire sign, Aries is aptly represented by the bold ram (♈️) and action-oriented planet Mars. People with an Aries star sign are courageous leaders who try new things with enthusiasm and confidence. Because this sign is focused on exploring and developing identity, Aries people respond to the mantra “I am.”

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Ruled by sensual Venus, the fixed earth sign Taurus appreciates security and comfort. The symbolism of the bull (♉) illustrates the capacity for commitment to a purpose, and people with a Taurus Sun want to develop their talents and resources. The mantra “I have” helps Taurus people identify the values that guide them toward contentment.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Mercury, a planet of communication and intellect, influences the mutable air sign Gemini. The twins (♊) represent this sign’s drive to relate and play with others, as well as the multifaceted nature of the Gemini personality. Inventive and versatile, the mantra “I think” helps Gemini people explore the gymnasium of their own minds.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

The key phrase “I feel” captures how the cardinal water sign Cancer experiences life. Ruled by the changeable Moon, Cancer is sensitive to shifting energies. With creativity and compassion, people with this Sun sign are devoted to others. The crab (♋) symbolizes Cancer people’s ability to build safe, supportive environments—and their readiness to protect them at all costs.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

The fixed fire sign Leo dares to do what others merely dream of. Authentic expression helps Leo people radiate like the Sun, which rules this sign. Equally ambitious and generous, Leos easily relate to the mantra “I will” because they achieve anything they set their minds to. Like lions (♌), magnetic Leos draw attention when they make moves.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

The dutiful maiden, reflected in letters from the Greek word for “virgin” (♍), is the archetype for the mutable earth sign Virgo. Virgo people are sensible and adept at discerning just what’s needed for a job well done. Thus, the phrase “I analyze” is appropriate for practical Virgos, who get their critical thinking skills from quick-witted Mercury.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Harmony is the core value of the cardinal air sign Libra. To people with this Sun sign, the key to sustaining peace is staying true to the mantra “I balance.” Ruled by Venus, Libra knows the social importance of beauty and charm. The element air also gives Libra a focus on fairness, which is why weighing scales (♎) encapsulate this sign.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

The fixed water sign Scorpio emanates intensity. Pluto grants this sign a deep inner life and a profound capacity for self-transformation. Guided by the heart and the drive to strategically seek what they want, Scorpio people relate to the phrase “I desire.” The scorpion (♏) illustrates Scorpio’s calculated approach and decisive action.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Like an archer’s arrow (♐), Sagittarius travels far and wide with enthusiasm and focus. This mutable fire sign aspires to ambitious visions with extreme optimism, a gift from the freedom-loving planet Jupiter. Following the mantra “I understand,” a Sagittarius person strives to learn as much as they can about the world to feel the full potential of humanity.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Consistent work that yields reliable, helpful results satisfies cardinal earth sign Capricorn’s hearty ambitions. To achieve their goals, Capricorn people believe in traditions and tried-and-true methods, a feature of rule-loving Saturn’s influence. The key phrase “I use” emphasizes Capricorn’s resourcefulness, and the symbol of the sea-goat (♑) reminds us of the Babylonian god Ea, who provided stability for life.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

For fixed air sign Aquarius, a far-reaching imagination is the catalyst for social progress. The planet Uranus is responsible for the trademark Aquarius nonconformity and questioning of oppressive traditions. This sign holds the symbol of the water bearer (♒), who carries the renewing potential of water. The mantra “I know” reflects Aquarius people’s desire to explore and challenge societal truths.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Mystical Neptune shapes the sensitive, spiritual nature of the mutable water sign Pisces. The phrase “I believe” guides Pisces people to have faith in powers beyond the known world. In fact, two fish (♓) symbolize the interconnectedness that Pisces perceives when others may not. Soulful and empathic, a Pisces Sun values intimate partnerships with nature, their work, loved ones, and other people.

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