An imaginary belt or zone in the heavens, extending about eight degrees each side of the ecliptic.
Signs of the Zodiac. The zodiac is divided into twelve equal parts, proceeding from west to east; each part is thirty degrees, and is distinguished by a sign. Beginning with “Arie,” we have first six northern and then six southern signs—i.e. six on the north side and six on the south side of the equator; beginning with “Capricornus,” we have six ascending and then six descending signs —i.e. six which ascend higher and higher towards the north, and six which descend lower and lower towards the south. The six northern signs are: Aries (the ram), Taurus (the bull), Gemini (the twins), spring signs; Cancer (the crab), Leo (the lion), Virgo (the virgin), summer signs. The six southern are: Libra (the balance), Scorpio (the scorpion), Sagittarius (the archer), autumn signs; Capricornus (the goat), Aquarius (the water-bearer) and Pisces (the fishes), winter signs. (Greek, zo-on, living creatures.)
Our vernal signs the RAM begins, Then comes the BULL, in May the TWINS; The CRAB in June, next LEO shines, And VIRGO ends the northern signs. The BALANCE brings autumnal fruits, The SCORPION stings, the ARCHER shoots; December's GOAT brings wintry blast, AQUARIUS rain, the FISH come last.
E. C. B.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894