From fiery, competitive Aries to empathic, psychic Pisces, here's your complete guide to all 12 zodiac signs and their meanings.

By Maressa Brown
January 22, 2021
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When you first dip your toe into astrology, whether by reading your horoscope or researching your new crush's zodiac sign, chances are you're learning all about a sun sign. The big, bright, gleaming celestial body spends approximately four weeks in each of the 12 zodiac signs, and your birthdate can (usually) guide you toward the sun sign you were born under. November 12 babies — solid Scorpios. Field tons of "HBD" texts on May 4? You're a Taurus. (Keep reading for a full list of zodiac sign dates.)

Your sun sign can tell you about your confidence, self-esteem, self-image, sense of self, and identity. It'll also influence your life path. But it's just one detail of your overall astrological profile, referred to as a natal chart (or birth chart). (You can get one from an astrologer or by plugging your info into an online service such as astrology.com.) Your chart serves as a glimpse of not just the sun but also the moon and the planets' placements in the sky at the specific moment you were born. It also takes the vantage point from your birth location into consideration. And when you work with a professional astrologer, they can tell you what each of those placements — and how they interact with one another — mean for your personality and journey in life. (Related: What Your Moon Sign Means About Your Personality and Life Path)

All these layers mean, for example, you could have been born with your sun in relationship- and balance-loving Libra but when you were born, Mercury, which rules how you communicate, was in the sign that's opposite Libra — argumentative, competitive Aries. So you might feel a push-pull between how you express yourself and your sense of self, and therefore, you're fiercer and more assertive than an airy Libra. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (known as AOC) is a perfect example of a fiery Libra, as her moon (astrological emotional compass) is in Aries, while her Venus (which affects her relationship style) and ascendant (which influences her outward impression) are in unfiltered, philosophical Sagittarius.

In short, we each have our own individualized "astrological DNA," which features a unique combo of signs spread across the sky. Here, an overview of each zodiac sign's meaning, including characteristics of each sign you'll want to bear in mind as you explore your birth chart.

Zodiac Sign Dates

If you're wondering what your zodiac sign is, see where your birthday falls in the 12 zodiac sign dates below. If you happened to be born on a day when the sun switches from one sign to another — called a cusp — you'll need your birth time to pinpoint your sun sign.

  • Aries ♈️: March 21 - April 19
  • Taurus ♉️: April 20 - May 20
  • Gemini ♊️: May 21 - June 20
  • Cancer ♋️: June 21 - July 22
  • Leo ♌️: July 23 - August 22
  • Virgo ♍️: August 23 - September 22
  • Libra ♎️: September 23 - October 22
  • Scorpio ♏️: October 23 - November 21
  • Sagittarius ♐️: November 22 - December 21
  • Capricorn ♑️: December 22 - January 19
  • Aquarius ♒️: January 20 - February 18
  • Pisces ♓️: February 19 - March 20

The Elements, Quadruplicities, and Houses

First, a quick primer on terms you'll see pop up when you're reading about each zodiac sign and its meaning. You likely already know that every sign falls under one of the four elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water. But did you know that within each element, there are three qualities (aka quadruplicities)?

Cardinal: These signs are the big-picture thinkers of the zodiac, great at brainstorming and initiating, but might not be the strongest with follow-through. They include Aries (fire), Cancer (water), Libra (air), and Capricorn (earth).

Mutable: These signs are the most adaptable of the zodiac, however, the not-as-positive flip side is that they can be wishy-washy. They include Gemini (air), Virgo (earth), Sagittarius (fire), and Pisces (water).

Fixed: These signs are known for being really great at digging their heels in — whether you call that resolute or stubborn as hell. They include Taurus (earth), Leo (fire), Scorpio (water), and Aquarius (air).

And every planet and element that astrologers look at in a chart falls within one of the 12 houses, each ruling a different area of life — and each ruled by one of the 12 signs. Check out each profile below to see which house each sign oversees.

The 12 Zodiac Signs & Meanings

Aries ♈️ (March 21 - April 19)

Symbol: The Ram

Ruling Planet: Mars

Ruling House: First House of Self

Key Traits: Competitive, energetic, impulsive, fearless

The cardinal fire sign is known for being dynamic, athletic, and having an insatiable appetite for winning. For this reason, they take great pride in being early adopters of anything and everything from the hottest new sneaker drop to the latest iPhone. And they pretty much live to compete and argue. Ram people tend to have the makings of a pro athlete, trend-setting influencer, or lawyer (former prosecutor and now Vice President Kamala Harris was born with her moon in Aries).

Taurus ♉️ (April 20 - May 20)

  • Symbol: The Bull
  • Ruling Planet: Venus
  • Ruling House: Second House of Income
  • Key Traits: Resolute, grounded, tenacious, sensual

The fixed earth sign has quite a reputation for being the most stubborn one of the zodiac, but remember, there are fixed signs in each element! Thanks to their Venusian influence, Taureans are actually fairly chill. They're known for loving luxury and indulgence, being super-loyal, and enjoying art (whether they create or just appreciate it). (Sound a bit like Ariana Grande? Although her sun is in Cancer, her Venus is in sweet Taurus.) They tend to adore spa days and sweets. They're known for taking their time — whether that means having a really long fuse to get fired up, dragging their feet to take action, or being lazy and languorous when it comes to being intimate.

Gemini ♊️ (May 21 - June 20)

Symbol: The Twins

Ruling Planet: Mercury

Ruling House: Third House of Communication

Key Traits: Witty, curious, charming, flighty

The word "mercurial" might have very well been created for Gemini, the mutable air sign that lives for communication in all forms. They're lovers of sharing whatever is on their mind, whenever, however. (Amy Schumer’s sun and Venus are in the loquacious air sign.) Although, don't assume they're always outgoing. They can be reserved and shy one minute and incredibly chatty the next. Given their innate mastery of language and social skills, they tend to have a wide, diverse circle of friends and gravitate to career paths that allow them to express themselves and utilize their super-buzzy brains (think: marketing/PR, politics, publishing).

Cancer ♋️ (June 21 - July 22)

Symbol: The Crab

Ruling Planet: Moon

Ruling House: Fourth House of Home Life

Key Traits: Compassionate, giving, sentimental, nurturing

The cardinal water sign, influenced by the shimmering maternal moon, is one of the greatest dreamers and do-ers of the zodiac. As the ruler of the Fourth House, which deals with family and home life, they're homebodies who were pretty much born for quarantine, prioritizing bolstering their connections with loved ones and achieving a lasting sense of security. But their crabbiness absolutely will come into play when they're frustrated, feel put upon, or are otherwise catapulted into a moody headspace. They'll go into their self-protective "shells," requiring time away from others to take care of themselves before they can get back to taking care of everyone else. (Mindy Kaling has a stellium — her sun, moon, and Mercury — in the endearing water sign.)

Leo ♌️ (July 23 - August 22)

Symbol: The Lion

Ruling Planet: Sun

Ruling House: Fifth House of Romance and Self-Expression

Key Traits: Charismatic, generous, optimistic, dramatic

The fixed fire sign is ruled by the confident sun, which informs their positive, cheerful, gung-ho vibe. Driven and self-assured leaders, they tend to be oriented toward taking action in life, and they're born feeling like they can accomplish their wildest dreams thanks to a glimmery combo of magnetism, luck, and endlessly believing in themselves. (Former President Barack Obama’s sun and Mercury are in the charismatic fire sign.) Although they might struggle to step out of being self-focused, they can be extremely loyal, devoted, and adore showering their loved ones in playful energy and all of life's finest things.

Virgo ♍️ (August 23 - September 22)

Symbol: The Virgin or Maiden

Ruling Planet: Mercury

Ruling House: Sixth House of Wellness and Daily Routine

Key Traits: Health-conscious, analytical, service-oriented, detail-focused

The mutable earth sign might very well be mistaken as an air sign given the influence of Mercury, which means their minds are pretty much going nonstop. Lovers of lists, spreadsheets, and blank journals, Virgos are the go-to researchers, organizers, and pretty much A students of the zodiac. They're also perfectionists who adore working hard to make the end result of any pursuit "just right" — whether that's a recipe, a professional project, or search for a partner. (Or in the case of Beyonce, whose sun is in the earth sign, the entertainment and art we can’t get enough of.) Speaking of partners and loved ones, they'll often bend themselves into knots to help and be of service to their nearest and dearest.

Libra ♎️ (September 23 - October 22)

Symbol: The Scales

Ruling Planet: Venus

Ruling House: Seventh House of Partnership

Key Traits: Romantic, artistic, indecisive, diplomatic

The cardinal air sign was born to bring balance, harmony, and justice to their work and relationships. Given their Venusian influence, they’re lovers of art and beauty who are known for being social butterflies and the ultimate hosts. And as the ruler of the Seventh House of Partnership, they prioritize one-on-one bonds, especially of the romantic variety. But although they tend to be interested in achieving serenity at all costs and connecting with a wide range of people, they’re not sheep. They’re go-getters (Serena Williams is one!) who will stand up for what they believe in, dreaming big and putting in the time and energy to ensure a fair result.

Scorpio ♏️ (October 23 - November 21)

Symbol: The Scorpion

Ruling Planets: Pluto and Mars

Ruling House: Eighth House of Emotional Bonds and Sexual Intimacy

Key Traits: Mysterious, magnetic, power-seeking, spiritual

The fixed water sign is known for being one of — if not the — most private sign in the zodiac. Co-ruled by transformative Pluto and go-getter Mars, they're able to command people's attention with their intense, powerful presence and air of mystery. They're also very much in touch with their spirituality and sexuality, but they hold their cards close to their chest. (Fiercely private family man Ryan Gosling has his sun and Mercury in the water sign.) Even after being in a relationship (platonic, romantic, or business-related) with a Scorpio for years, you might not know the whole story behind their emotional wounds and at times rough-around-the-edges tone. But once they're in any kind of emotional entanglement, the resolute, razor-focused sign is in it.

Sagittarius ♐️ (November 22 - December 21)

Symbol: The Archer

Ruling Planet: Jupiter

Ruling House: Ninth House of Adventure and Higher Learning

Key Traits: Philosophical, free-spirited, unfiltered, wanderlusting

Ruled by fortunate Jupiter, which brings a magnifying effect to everything it touches, Sagittarians are big, life-loving personalities who adore globe-trotting, being at the heart of any party, and exploring as much as life has to offer. They're also born philosophers who are endlessly passionate about their beliefs and have a tendency to hop on a soapbox frequently in order to share their world view, often in a way that pulls no punches. (President Biden has his ascendant in Sag, which is why he's known for his no-nonsense rhetoric. "Folks!") They're natural born comedians, entertainers, politicians, and/or generally gravitate to career paths that allow for lots of travel.

Capricorn ♑️ (December 22 - January 19)

Symbol: The Goat

Ruling Planet: Saturn

Ruling House: Tenth House of Career and Public Image

Key Traits: Traditional, down-to-earth, industrious, disciplined

If you want someone who's perpetually motivated to achieve on your team, you're going to want to tap someone whose chart includes the cardinal earth sign Capricorn. People born with Cap are on a lifelong climb up a series of increasingly steep mountains, as they're driven to put their noses to the grindstone, succeed, and earn recognition for their diligent, no-nonsense work. In fact, it's for this reason that they have a rep for being workaholics. But they're also extremely loyal, often exhibit a gut-busting hilarious dry sense of humor, and ability to show you exactly what's possible when you commit to a pragmatic, steady, grounded approach. John Legend is a perfect example of an industrious double Cap (it’s his sun and his rising/ascendant sign).

Aquarius ♒️ (January 20 - February 18)

Symbol: The Water Bearer

Ruling Planet: Uranus

Ruling House: Eleventh House of Networking

Key Traits: Humanitarian, eccentric, individualistic, cool

The fixed air sign is making plenty of headlines as we head into what's been coined the "Age of Aquarius." Quirky, generally progressive, skeptical, and social (albeit in a cool, aloof, friends-with-everyone way), those with the Water Bearer's influence in their charts are wired to prioritize "we" over "me," gravitating to causes and activities that hold the greater good of society as a whole in mind. (Look no further than Alicia Keys, who has a stellium, meaning three or more signs, in Aquarius: her sun, Mercury, and Mars.) They gravitate to more platonic relationships than deeply intimate entanglements and might even opt for non-traditional arrangements, as they love to strike out against convention whenever possible. And given electric Uranus' involvement, they're tech-savvy and science-minded.

Pisces ♓️ (February 19 - March 20)

Symbol: The Fish

Ruling Planets: Neptune

Ruling House: Twelfth House of Spirituality

Key Traits: Empathic, artistic, psychic, dreamy

Imagine not only being super-tuned into your own feelings but being wired to pick up on and take on everyone else's emotions. Now you're in the headspace of a person who has the significant presence of mutable water sign Pisces in their chart. Incredibly sensitive and intuitive, they are the healers, the hopeless romantics, the artists, and the escapists of the zodiac. While they have an instinct to get swept up in otherworldly daydreams to get away from any emotional pain, the healthiest way for them to channel these deeply-felt emotions is through creative outlets like theater, music, or poetry. (The late opera-loving RBG’s sun and Venus were in the water sign.) And thanks to their Neptune influence, they have keen imaginations and tend to be up for exploring all things related to spirituality, the metaphysical, and psychology.

Maressa Brown is a writer and astrologer with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to being Shape's resident astrologer, she contributes to InStyle, Parents, Astrology.com, and more. Follow her Instagram and Twitter at @MaressaSylvie.

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