- astronaut (n) (nau = ship or sailor): literally, a star sailor
As a teenager with highly-sophisticated tastes in film, one of my favorite 80s movies was Space Camp, where several teenagers attending a summer space camp are accidentally launched into space (a highly-implausible plot one can only accept without reservation when one is young). I never wanted to be an astronaut before that movie, as I wasn’t much of one for high-risk experiences, nor did science ever thrill my soul really. But after watching it, I dreamed of becoming a new me, one who sat on the school bus and read graduate-level physics textbooks for entertainment rather than high-drama teen novels about meeting the new cute guy at school on the day of a major acne breakout. Needless to say, I never actually took steps to implement that dream, unless you count repeated viewings of Space Camp as such.
- disaster (n) (dis = separating from): literally, separating from the favorable or friendly stars
Had I, in fact, tried to implement my dream by spending my summers attending space camp rather than my regular non-specialty camp, it would have been a disaster. Not only do I not have the mind for it, but I also don’t have the stomach for it. I get motion sick even on non-turbulent 747 voyages, so one probably wouldn’t care to imagine what exiting the earth’s gravitational field would do to my digestive system.
- astronomy (n) (nom = law, arrangement): the arrangement or law of the stars, used to refer to the scientific study of the stars, planets, etc.
In college, I didn’t mind the astronomy section of one of the science classes I took, especially the times where we went out on top of the science building after dark to observe the stars. The class was cleverly titled to indirectly say that it was a science class for dummies without actually calling it “Science Class for Dummies 101.” This one’s true, folks. The course description said it was targeted toward those with a lack of interest in science, but the 25 or so of us who took it (and all our friends, associates and the universe pretty much) all knew the truth.
- astrology (n) (log = study of): the study of the stars for the purpose of determining some events in human lives, based on the belief that stars’ and planets’ positioning influences these events
I sometimes laugh when I hear someone confuse “astrology” and “astronomy.” For some reason, I get this mental picture of a student signing up for astronomy, expecting to be handed a series of horoscopes and the like, thinking she’s getting an easy “fluff” class, only to instead be handed a schedule of all the dates where she has to get up in the middle of the night to observe various stars, planets, constellations and so forth. Having overheard enough high schoolers’ comments over the years, I have full confidence that this has, in fact, happened.
Miscellaneous trivia: The suffix –aster is different from the root astr (and means inferior, in case you are interested). The root onoma means name, so some sources attribute the word astronomy’s meaning to be derived from the root onoma’s meaning. Thus, they would define astronomy as the naming of the stars, although I believe the definition I listed earlier is the more accurate of the two. But, I’d need a moment to think hard before deciding how much dark chocolate to bet on it.