astrological tips and guides

Is it Astrologer or Astrologist?

astrologer or astrologistI 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:

Astrologer vs astrologist searches

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:

  1. Skeptics
  2. Scammers
  3. Journalists

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.


6 replies on “Is it Astrologer or Astrologist?”

Well written, Chris! Since this same topic has come up twice in discussions I’ve been involved in on Facebook in the last couple of years, a couple of additional points that came up in those discussions which might be worth noting:

1) My hypothesis is that the term ‘astrologist’ arose ntirely as an error among those ignorant of the correct term (much as you state), but for the specific reason that those familiar with words applied to other divinatory practices are used to, and therefore expect, the same ending on a word serving a similar semantic function. Thus, anyone who is familiar with palmist (especially), phrenologist or numerologist might have expected an -ist ending on the stem ‘astrolog-‘. Then there is also the well-known word ‘occultist’ too. ‘Astrologer’ behaves unusually and distinctively as part of this semantically related family of words. You either know it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, the tendency may be to guess wrong based on the other members of the same family.

2) The only reference in the printed astrological literature that I could find to ‘astrologist’ from among my own collected resources, my search being limited to actual titles, was the following:

Whitty, Michael, ed. ‘An Astrological Symposium: the Predictions of Ten Prominent American Astrologists on the War: When Is It To End; Who Will Win; The Events of 1917’ – published by Azoth Publishing Company, New York City, 1917.

I note that the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary dates the word ‘astrologist’ to the mid-20th century and adds it is especially North American in usage. Well, I would call 1917 early 20th, not mid, but I think they are approximately correct otherwise.

Whitty was the editor of a general occult journal, Azoth, and thus a prime candidate for getting the word wrong as a result of familiarity with other words in the same semantic group as outlined above.

Hey Chris,

Really nice article. As I mentioned on your FB thread, I believe astrologist was a term that I had seen used by some medieval astrologers; but looking at Phillip’s research above, perhaps I’m wrong about that. I would have to find time to survey some of the volumes I have by Sibly and other medieval authors. I didn’t find anything in a cursory look in Christian Astrology.

However, I also think this is cultural, which also does match the other great summarized thought you’ve had about people who use astrologist out of lack of familiarity with the field. As an experiment and a tongue in cheek exploration of your post on FB, I put astrologist behind my name as a status update on FB. I was surprised by the # of likes and even some of the responses. I noticed very few astrologers weighed in, and that was logical. But most people I believe saw that as a positive affirmation of my identity as an astrologer. And I was fine with that. They didn’t know. Or care.

So I think as you’ve conjectured and as Phillip has outlined in his fairly thought out “-ist” rule above, it is about how people know the field…or not. As you said, it’s not as if the term is grammatically wrong. But we do have to be careful of our disdain of the word. I saw NONE of that in your article and was relieved. Some people just don’t know, and some people prey on that ignorance, unfortunately. Two different things, though.

As per usual, great job, and thank you!

Thanks Samuel! Yeah, I was trying to walk a fine line here, because the purpose of the article was mainly to talk to people outside of the astrological community who might not know what the preferred designation is. I did not want to come off as if I was telling other astrologers what they must call themselves. Instead I just wanted to share some observations about how the term seems to be perceived within the astrological community. I figure that there are a lot of people outside of the community who genuinely don’t know which term to use, and I thought it would be good to have something like this show up in searches.

While Phillip’s point about practitioners of other fringe or occult fields being -ists definitely has merit, I think there’s also a matter of common grammar. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any other “-ology” field where an individual is an “-ologer”. Instead we have the biologist, philologist, geologist and gastroenterologist, as well as the theologian. To an outsider with limited exposure or willingness to research, I imagine “astrologist” may just feel more natural, and I can’t help but wonder how we became “astrologers” in the first place. That being said, the distinction has become such a shibboleth that it’s not surprising that most people serious about astrology call themselves astrologers in spite of its linguistic oddity.

This article got me wondering. Also in French and Italian you say “astrologue” not “astrologiste” and “astrologo” not “astrologista” So it’s a similar problem in those languages.

So I found this really interesting entry in which is the Italian arts and science encyclopedia, and I also found a translated version here:

Michael Scot was a midiaeval Scottish astrologer who worked for the Sicilian court in the early 1200s. He wrote a book “Liber introductorius maior in astrologiam”

I quote from the article (by Graziella Federici Vescovini, a scholar on medieval astrology at the University of Florence) about Scot’s work:

“Michael Scot makes it clear that he considers astronomy to be the same as astrology; but there are also differences. Astronomy takes its name from “astrum” which is a great star – or so he writes – and “nomos” which signifies “science”, ie rule. In the same way, astronomy is the law of the stars (lex astorum)or science of the stars (de astris); whereas astrology is the discourse (sermo) about the stars. It is also called thus because of “astrum” and “logos” which means discourse or sermon about the stars. ”


“Moreover, there are two terms that derive from astronomy: “Astronomus” the man who knows the art, and “astronomista” the man who imitates the art of astronomy (idest homo imitans artem astronomiae). Two terms also derive from astrology: “Astrologus” the man capable of mastering this art (homo utens haberi artem) and “astrologista” the man who copies its vestiges as best as he can (his astrologista idest imitans vesitigia ipsius artis suo posse).

So I think that it is easier to see the direct link between the latin term “astrologus” and the italian astrologo or french astrologue than astrologer, which is probably the anglicized version of astrologue-er.

Has Nancy Drew cracked the case? ; )