1769, short for stella polaris, Modern Latin, literally "the pole star" (see polar). The ancient Greeks called it Phoenice, "the Phoenician (star)," because the Phoenicians used it for navigation. Due to precession of the equinoxes the pole was a few degrees off (closer to Beta Ursae Minoris), but evidently Polaris was close enough. Also see pole (n.2). The Old English word for it was Scip-steorra "ship-star," also reflecting its importance in navigation. As the name of a U.S. Navy long-range submarine-launched guided nuclear missile, it dates from 1957.
updated on August 06, 2020