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I am looking for a single word that describes this thing (1):

5-pointed star with internal lines

but not this thing (2):

5-pointed star with internal lines and enclosing circle

The obvious choice here would be pentagram, but in colloquial use, that word unfortunately refers to both (1) and (2), as well as a number of variants of (2) that have other enclosures surrounding the 5-pointed star. (In mathematical use, "pentagram" uniquely refers to (1) and not (2), but I am not writing for a mathematical audience, so that's still a no-go.) It also has connotations I would like to avoid (devil worship, goat sacrifice, etc.).

If all else fails, I can just call (1) a "five-pointed star", but that gets to be a bit of a mouthful.

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Funny, I just ran across a passage in a Harry Dresden novel that relied on exactly this precise distinction between a pentagram and a pentacle. And I had to read it like three times to get it straight, even though I was aware of the difference. So this is an apt question, I think. –  Bradd Szonye Mar 26 '14 at 9:16
It's a satan worshipping star-thingy. You are out of luck :) –  mplungjan Mar 26 '14 at 9:56
@mplungjan no, it's the first star I learned to draw :-) –  andy256 Mar 26 '14 at 10:53
You could put dashes in "rotationally-symmetric-stellate-pentagon": I'm pretty sure there's only one such object, and it's the one you supplied. –  Wayfaring Stranger Mar 26 '14 at 12:46
Note that in some situtaions "Sheriff's Star" can help here. –  Joe Blow Mar 27 '14 at 8:24

6 Answers 6

up vote 13 down vote accepted

To reiterate what you described, in strict usage the following apply:

This is a pentagram – a type of five-pointed star

This is a pentacle – a pentagram circumscribed by a circle:

This is a five-pointed star that is not a pentagram:

Yes, as you described, strict usage is not always the case, and when you say pentagram it evokes pentacle in the minds of many people. However, I am convinced that there is no single word that is both common and unambiguously understood to mean the first case. I am assuming that since you consider five-pointed star "a bit of a mouthful" that you mean to repeat this term at least a few times in whatever you're writing. If I were in your place, I would use the term pentagram (since after all, it is correct in formal usage), and use a picture to show the reader exactly what you mean. If you are writing in a medium where you cannot use pictures, I would spend a sentence to describe it as a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes.

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According to Wikipedia, it is a Pentagram.

Wikipedia points out that Pentacles are magical objects and

despite the sound of the word, often had no connotation of "five" in the old magical texts, but were, rather, magical talismans inscribed with any symbol or character.

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Interesting note about pentacles! –  Bradd Szonye Mar 26 '14 at 23:37

Doczi in 'The Power of Limits' p 6, viewable here, distinguishes between a pentagon, a pentagram and a pentagonal star (this last (highlighted in bold) refers to your (1) above). Unfortunately it's 2 words, not 1.

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-> "pentastar" to coin something (you'll probably find a better neologism but I doubt you'll find a single word that's unambiguous without defining it) –  Chris H Mar 26 '14 at 17:10

If you must avoid pentagram then consider:

  • pentacle
  • pentalpha
  • pentangle


Or in some cases you could just say star.

Isn't the occult/demonic pentagram upside-down — rotated 180 degrees?

Knowing more would help. What is the context? Who is the audience? Why are you seeking this one word label?

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Nice answer Box73 –  andy256 Mar 26 '14 at 10:54
'Isn't the occult/demonic pentagram upside-down — rotated 180 degrees?' -- No, it is only rotated 72 degrees. –  Lighthart Mar 26 '14 at 16:00
@Lighthart ITYM 36. –  shoover Mar 26 '14 at 16:45
@Lighthart Well, there's an infinite number of solutions in the form of: 36 + 72c for any integer c. –  Cruncher Mar 26 '14 at 17:32
I have to apologize for inadvertently turning this in to stackgeometry. –  Lighthart Mar 26 '14 at 18:22

At the risk of being banished from the site for eternity for language bending, what about pentapoint?

Disclaimer: pentapoint is not an English word.

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pentastar or pentalpha would be correct answers.

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Do you have some source that says these are English words? –  TimLymington Mar 26 '14 at 12:52
penta is not an English word. It comes from greek and widely used in English. And you anyway know that "star" is an English word. –  Jag Mar 27 '14 at 6:38

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