9

I looked up the word "astronomical" in the dictionary and it has an example of "an astronomical price." So I'm wondering if " is astronomical" is a good alternative to "something is very expensive."

10
  • 5
    You can buy an astronomical watch at quite modest prices. Commented May 18 at 11:25
  • 8
    A watch can be astronomically expensive or costly.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 18 at 13:06
  • 18
    It's the price of the Rolex that's astronomical, not the watch itself.
    – David K
    Commented May 18 at 16:07
  • 3
    Just make sure you have some headroom left for watches that cost waaay more than a Rolex. :-))
    – Gábor
    Commented May 18 at 20:38
  • 2
    "Astronomical clock" is a well established term in English. Anyone familiar with it will immediately think of "astronomical" watches in the same context.
    – R.M.
    Commented May 18 at 22:55

6 Answers 6

24

To use the adjective astronomical, you need to introduce what you are describing, like cost, price, or similar. Simply saying

Rolex watches are astronomical

is not enough although some may understand it.

You may consider

Prices of Rolex watches are astronomical.

Collins Dictionary gives a few examples:

ADJECTIVE If you describe an amount, especially the cost of something as astronomical, you are emphasizing that it is very large indeed.

Houses in the village are selling for astronomical prices.

The cost will be astronomical.

5
  • 12
    You can use it as asked if you have clearly established that you are talking about prices first. E.g. "When it comes to price, watch brands can fall anywhere in a wide range. Drugstore watches are dirt-cheap. Fossils are a little pricey. Rolex watches are astronomical!"
    – fectin
    Commented May 20 at 3:16
  • Thanks, @fectin. Yes, if price has been mentioned in the conversation and is clear, it can be omitted in subsequent sentences. Commented May 20 at 4:12
  • 2
    To give an example why you need to mention cost, you could also say "The demand for Rolex watches is astronomical," meaning many people want to buy one.
    – user71659
    Commented May 21 at 6:30
  • Contextually, Rolex watches are astronomical, is enough and will always be understood by native speakers. They will not think that you are claiming Rolex watches have something to do with the movement of heavenly bodies.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 21 at 13:19
  • @fectin - The context is entirely present in the single sentence. Contextually, Rolex watches are astronomical, is enough and will always be understood by native speakers. They will not think that you are claiming Rolex watches have something to do with the movement of heavenly bodies. Timex watches are astronomical, however, does not assume the same context.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 21 at 13:20
21

No, that doesn't work. "Astronomical" means "related to astronomy". For example you might talk about an "astronomical telescope" (one suitable for studying the stars) or an "astronomical object" (a star or planet etc)

The numbers used in astronomy tend to be very large. So if you say "the distance is astronomical" you mean it is a very large distance. Similarly "the temperatures are astronomical" or "the speed is astronomical". This is informally used as hyperbole (exaggeration).

By extension, a price or a cost can be astronomical. It would mean the price is very high. So you could say "The cost of the Rolex was astronomical." It would be informal but correct. You can also say "The Rolex is astronomically expensive". The adverb is modifying an adjective related to price or cost, so this has the sense of "very high price".

If you just say "The Rolex was astronomical", you mean it was suitable for astronomy (perhaps it would work in space, for example).

6
  • 2
    Though I recall the physicist Richard Feynman joking in his biography that we should instead refer to economical numbers instead, given that economists routinely dealt with bigger numbers than most astrophysicists did. Commented May 20 at 2:51
  • 3
    The sad truth is that I know of very few people that would understand "The Rolex was astronomical" in any other context than price. It only refers to price these days, and there is no literal understanding of the word.
    – roganjosh
    Commented May 20 at 3:08
  • 6
    Actually a brief google suggests that "astronomical watch" means one that shows information like the phase of the moon or the position of the sun in the astrological houses.
    – James K
    Commented May 20 at 5:19
  • I suppose you might say that a watch that's astronomical can help you track the positions of the planets relative to the plane that's ecliptic ... if you wanted to be funny. I don't think anyone would use those words that way in earnest.
    – David K
    Commented May 20 at 16:59
  • Re, "perhaps it would work in space" Astronomy looks at "space." It doesn't necessarily happen in space. People have been doing ground-based astronomy since before the start of recorded history, but they only started doing space-based astronomy in the second half of the 20th century. Commented May 20 at 20:17
9

(pedantic edge case for completeness)

The other answers are correct that, indeed, "astronomical" does not refer by itself to a price.

To be complete, we might note it's possible to encounter such a sentence that refers to price through the specific context.
For example, if people were talking to each other,
one might say "I bought the best Timex, though the cost was astronomical."
and another person reply "That Timex might be a lot, but Rolex is astronomical."

The second sentence speaks to price because of the context of the prior sentence.

2
  • 3
    Also, astronomically expensive, which no one has mentioned.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 18 at 12:52
  • 1
    @Lambie precisely, I'm amazed no-one mentioned that
    – Fattie
    Commented May 20 at 19:26
3

There are watches that have been specifically approved for and advertised as for use in space or by astronauts.

So if you said "Rolex watches are astronomical" without any other context that is what I would assume you were talking about.

There are also watches specifically made for astronomers or astronomical purposes - which is the other idea your sentence would bring to my mind.

Hearing your sentence without additional context, the idea of high priced watch would be a far distant third place in my mind to astronaut's watch and astronomer's watch.

3
  • The Pepsi-dial GMT-Master was precisely what I thought of when I saw the question title – right after my very first instinct, which was, “Rolexes aren’t astronomical, that’s the Omega Speedmaster!”. Commented May 19 at 18:21
  • lol @JanusBahsJacquet GMTA (notice my comment up top). I wear a moon speedmaster.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 20 at 19:26
  • So you're thinking Rolex watches are astronomical, would mean they are used in space or something similar? Do you know that Rolex watches are extremely expensive (tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of Pounds)?
    – EllieK
    Commented May 21 at 13:30
0

The metaphorical meaning of "astronomical" isn't "expensive" but "vast" (like the universe) or "high" (like the sky). If you're saying something was astronomical and don't mean it literally (like an astronomical clock that shows the moon phase and sunrise/sunset times), you probably mean it's huge.

0

Note that there are astronomical watches, just not from Rolex, as it means something quite different (they feature complications related to astronomy). You can see a few here or here for instance. They usually involve showing the position of a few planets or other astronomical info.

Rolex, however, do not have any such watches. The most advanced (very) vaguely related complication in a Rolex watch is currently an annual calendar. There have been a few (very rare) Rolex watches showing moon phases, but that's about it.

Note that if you think the prices of Rolex watches are astronomical, then you should check out the prices of actual astronomical watches. You'll usually have to add one or two figures to the price of a Rolex watch to get one of those.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .