The term horoscope has at least three distinct meanings or usages in astrology. Each definition will be provided below:

1. Sun-sign Column

At this point in time the most common usage for the term horoscope is to refer to Sun-sign astrology columns where short predictions are given for each of the twelve signs of the zodiac.  It is thought that this form of astrology only started to become popularized in the 1930s and ’40s through columns that began appearing in newspapers at that time.

2. Astrological Chart

The term horoscope is also sometimes used by astrologers to refer to an astrological “chart”, which is a diagram that depicts the positions of the planets and their relationships with each other at some specific moment in time.  Within this context, a person’s “horoscope” might refer to their birth chart, although also be used more generically to refer to other types of charts as well.

3. The Ascendant or Hour-Marker

The original term for the ascendant was horoskopos, which means “hour-marker” in Greek.  This is where the term horoscope originally derives from, although in this context the designation was only used to refer to the ascendant, or sometimes to the first house, which is what the ascendant is used to determine.

Historical Development of the Term Horoscope

As you can see, the term horoscope was originally first used to refer to a specific technical concept, which was the ascendant.  Eventually, due to the import role of the ascendant in astrological interpretations, the term horoscope came to be generalized in order to refer to the astrological chart as a whole.  Later this generalized usage started to be applied to Sun-sign columns, because these interpretations were supposed to act as a sort of birth chart in their own right, taking their main reference point as the position of the Sun on the day of the individual’s birth.

Which of these three usages is meant in any given instance can only be determined by the context in which the term is used.