A sextant is a tool for measuring the angles between heavenly bodies — the kind found in outer space. Used as a navigational tool out at sea, it helps determine a ship's longitude and latitude.

There is nothing sexy about a sextant, unless you're a sailor. Even then, in today's world of sophisticated instrumentation, it's considered quaint and old-fashioned. The noun sextant dates back to the late 16th century, from the Latin word sextans, meaning "sixth part." The sextant uses a graduated arc of 60° (there's the six reference) for measuring the altitude of the planets and stars.

Definitions of sextant

n a measuring instrument for measuring the angular distance between celestial objects; resembles an octant

an early form of sextant
Type of:
measuring device, measuring instrument, measuring system
instrument that shows the extent or amount or quantity or degree of something

n a unit of angular distance equal to 60 degrees

Type of:
angular unit
a unit of measurement for angles

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