loose ("open") star cluster (M44) in Cancer, 1650s, from Latin praesaepe the Roman name for the grouping, literally "enclosure, stall, manger, hive," from prae "before" (see pre-) + saepire "to fence" (see septum).
It is similar to the Hyades but more distant, about 600 light-years away (as opposed to about 150 for the Hyades), consists of about 1,000 stars, mostly older, the brightest of them around magnitude 6.5 and thus not discernible to the naked eye even on the clearest nights, but their collective light makes a visible fuzz of nebular glow that the ancients likened to a cloud (the original nebula); Galileo was the first to resolve it into stars (1609).
The modern name for it in U.S. and Britain, Beehive, seems no older than 1840. Greek names included Nephelion "Little Cloud" and Akhlys "Little Mist." "In astrology, like all clusters, it threatened mischief and blindness" [Richard Hinckley Allen, "Star Names and Their Meanings," 1899].
"Manger" to the Romans perhaps by influence of two nearby stars, Gamma and Delta Cancri, dim and unspectacular but both for some reason figuring largely in ancient astrology and weather forecasting, and known as "the Asses" (Latin Aselli), supposedly those of Silenus.
brightest star by magnitude, late 14c., from Latin Sirius "the Dog Star," from Greek Seirios, said to mean literally "scorching" or "the scorcher." But other related Greek words seem to derive from this use, and the name might be a folk-etymologized borrowing from some other language. An Egyptian name for it was Sothis. Beekes suggests it is from PIE root *twei- "to agitate, shake, toss; excite; sparkle" if the original meaning of the star-name is "sparkling, flickering."
The connection of the star with scorching heat is from its ancient heliacal rising at the summer solstice (see dog days). Related: Sirian. The constellation Canis Major seems to have grown from the star, not the other way.
Homer made much of it as [Kyōn], but his Dog doubtless was limited to the star Sirius, as among the ancients generally till, at some unknown date, the constellation was formed as we have it, — indeed till long afterwards, for we find many allusions to the Dog in which we are uncertain whether the constellation or its lucida is referred to. [Richard Hinckley Allen, Canis Major in "Star Names and Their Meanings," London: 1899]