Eclipses vs ellipsis

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Eclipses and ellipsis are two words that are very close in spelling and pronunciation, and are easily confused. We will examine the difference between the words eclipses and ellipsis, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Eclipses is the plural form of eclipse, which denotes the obscuring of one celestial body by another celestial body or its shadow. The obscuring celestial body passes between the obscured celestial body and the source of light. This type of alignment of three celestial bodies is called syzygy. Eclipses may happen to planets, but most often, the term eclipse refers to an eclipse of the sun or moon. An eclipse of the sun, or solar eclipse, occurs when the moon is positioned between the sun and the Earth. An eclipse of the moon, or lunar eclipse, occurs when the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow during its orbit. The umbra is the darkest part of the shadow, the penumbra is the partially obscured part of the shadow. The corona, or halo of gases surrounding the sun is visible during an eclipse when the shadow of the moon is a disk over the sun. During a total eclipse, the watchers are plunged into darkness during the period of totality, which may be awe inspiring. A solar eclipse is not visible over all the Earth. One’s ability to participate in observation depends on which hemisphere is experiencing the  astronomical phenomenon. Of course, even if one is in position to see a total or partial eclipse, the quality of the experience depends on the Earth’s atmosphere, the weather, and time of day. An observer must be careful to protect himself against eye damage with proper dark glasses. In the past, the occurrence of a solar eclipse seemed random and uncontrollable. It is still uncontrollable, but is easily predicted and may be anticipated by simply looking in an almanac.  The word eclipse is also used figuratively to mean something that has fallen into decline or someone who has lost prestige or power. The word eclipse is derived from the Greek word ekleipsis, which means an abandoning or a forsaking, and may be used as a noun or a verb. Related words are eclipsed, eclipsing.

An ellipsis is a punctuation mark consisting of a series of three dots that signals an omission (…). There are many schools of thought concerning the spacing of the dots. Most agree that a space before … and after the dots is appropriate. Some insist there should be a space between . . . each dot, as well. Note that the only proper use of the ellipsis is to signal an omission. It is not a substitute for a dash, comma, colon or semicolon. The ellipsis is often used to signify that one is only quoting part of a sentence. It is sometimes used when writing dialogue to show that the speaker has not finished his thought or his speech has trailed off. The word ellipsis is derived from the Greek word elleipsis which means to leave out. The plural form of ellipsis is ellipses.


Some parts of the planet may also experience solar eclipses or a “transit” of the sun by the planet Mercury, which is also technically an eclipse. (Space Magazine)

Total solar eclipses can be tricky to get your head around. (Forbes Magazine)

That eclipses the £16million they paid for Michael Owen in 2005. (The Independent)

Maybe this is why he eclipses his contemporaries. (Vibe Magazine)

My decision didn’t have anything to do with writing, and maybe not even with ellipses; it had to do with the very idea of suspension. (The Guardian)

President Donald Trump’s longest ellipsis is a punctuation chasm stretching 23 dots in length. (The Week Magazine)