1. Greek Mythology One of a race of monsters having the head, arms, and trunk of a man and the body and legs of a horse.
2. Astronomy Any of a group of icy asteroids that orbit the sun primarily in the region between Jupiter and Neptune, whose orbits they cross. Some centaurs appear to be more like comets than asteroids.
[Middle English, from Latin Centaurus, from Greek Kentauros. Sense 2, from the official convention of naming such objects after the centaurs of Greek mythology, a practice derived from the fact that the first such object to be observed was named after CHIRON.]
(click for a larger image)centaur
c. 900 bc Lefkandi centaur of Greece
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.