Is it Astrologer or Astrologist?
I have noticed that there is sometimes confusion over whether the correct professional designation for a person who practices astrology is “astrologer” or “astrologist.” The purpose of this post is to clear up this issue for those who are uncertain.
Let’s get the main point out of the way right from the start:
Generally speaking, people who practice astrology prefer to be referred to as an astrologer, not an astrologist. This is the designation that virtually all practitioners of astrology have adopted and prefer.
When in doubt, I would always recommend using the word astrologer rather than astrologist.
Now, technically “astrologist” is an actual word, and it is sometimes used as a synonym for “astrologer.” However, the Oxford English Dictionary says that the word astrologist is
Less common than astrologer and not the preferred term amongst practitioners.”
I would estimate that something like 99% of practitioners refer to themselves as astrologers, which arguably makes astrologer the more “correct” designation, in the same way that the correct designation for someone who practices psychology is “psychologist,” even though technically “psychologer” is a legitimate word that just isn’t really used anymore.
Usage Frequency for the Terms Astrologer and Astrologist
While researching this issue I decided to check Google in order to get a sense for how frequently each word is used online at this point in time.
Right now a search for the word “astrologer” on Google results in approximately 3,200,000 pages. On the other hand, a search for the word “astrologist” results in approximately 755,000 pages.
Here is a graph from Google Trends which shows the number of searches for the term “astrologer” (in red) versus “astrologist” (in blue) from 2004 through to the present:
What this shows is that the term astrologer is used far more frequently than the term astrologist. This raises the question of who is even using the term astrologist then to begin with?
Who Uses the Word Astrologist Anyway?
So why is this even an issue, and who still uses the word “astrologist” anyway?
As a practicing astrologer, usually the only people that I typically see using the term “astrologist” are those who simply don’t know any better. That is to say, usually the term is used by people who are not very familiar with the field of astrology, to such an extent that they don’t even know what the “correct” or preferred designation for an astrologer is.
Typically there are only three groups of people who find themselves in the position of talking about astrology semi-regularly without having enough familiarity with the subject to know what the proper designation for an astrologer is, and they are:
These three groups seem to account for the majority of the instances in which I’ve seen the term astrologist used. What all of these groups share in common is that they tend to talk about astrology from an outsider’s perspective, and they don’t tend to know very much about the subject.
Skeptics frequently attempt to criticize astrology, although it is often surprising how little they know about it. From what I’ve seen they often tend to have this implicit conceit that since they “know” that astrology is wrong they don’t need to familiarize themselves with it in order to debunk it. I’ve explored this issue a bit previously in my articles on the definition of astrology and the zodiac controversy.
Scammers are people who profess to be professional astrologers and essentially attempt to impersonate them, but in reality they tend to have a pretty shallow understanding of the subject and are really just trying to rip people off. They usually know enough to give the impression that they are a professional astrologer, but then they slip up by doing little things like referring to themselves as a “professional astrologist” or a “master astrologist.”
The third group consists of journalists who occasionally write a story about astrology when it comes up in the news for some reason. News coverage of astrology tends focus on sensationalist stories, and for some reason the more sensationalist the story, the more likely it seems that the term astrologist will be used. Journalists often end up misunderstanding and mangling many of the technical terms and concepts that astrologers use though, so sometimes the use of the word “astrologist” is the least annoying issue. It seems like scientists often complain about similar issues when it comes to science reporting in the news though, so there may be a similar underlying issue there when it comes to the media.
What I’m getting at here is that in each of these instances one of the dead giveaways that a person isn’t very familiar with astrology is when they use the word astrologist. So technically while it is not grammatically “wrong” to use the term “astrologist,” it does have a tendency to make you look like someone who isn’t very familiar with the subject.
Astrologers Who Use the Word Astrologist
All of that being said, I do need to point out that there are a small number of astrologers who sometimes prefer to call themselves “astrologists” as their professional designation. It is very hard to put numbers on something like this, but I would estimate that it has to be something very small, like less than 1% of the total number of practicing astrologers that I’ve met, if even that.
Most of the legitimate professional astrologers (as opposed to scammers) who refer to themselves as “astrologists” do so with full knowledge that “astrologer” is the more widely accepted term, and so in these instances they are typically using the term “astrologist” either for novelty reasons, or to be quirky and set themselves apart somehow.
As a result of this I want to emphasize that I am not saying that all astrologers who call themselves “astrologists” are automatically scammers or are wrong somehow. There are legitimate professional astrologers who use this term.
However, I would say that there appears to be a greater tendency for this term to be used by people who are scammers rather than legitimate astrologers, and because of that it will naturally raise some eyebrows within the astrological community if you are a legitimate astrologer who chooses this as your professional designation. It is certainly a matter of choice and personal preference on some level though, and while I would probably advise you that you shouldn’t use it if you were asking me for advice, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t use it or that it is inherently wrong if you do.
If you are not an astrologer, then you probably don’t have a good reason to use the term “astrologist” in a sentence though, so I would recommend just sticking to using the word astrologer.