What is Mercury Retrograde?

Mercury goes retrograde several times each year, during which it appears to move in the opposite direction to the Earth. This backward motion is an illusion created by different planetary orbits.

What happens during a Mercury retrograde?

Mercury retrogrades are associated with hassles and frustrations related to communications, technologies/gadgets, and short journeys (all of which are ruled by Mercury). Many astrologers believe that plans, aspects of travel (flights, taxis, etc.), or meetings may delayed or canceled at the last minute, and that mistakes, misunderstandings, miscommunications, loss of small items, technological glitches, and general confusion are more likely during Mercury retrogrades.

Some people say they feel more nervous, confused, or unhappy during Mercury retrogrades, but this may just be a self-fulfilling prophesy. In other words, people expect Mercury retrogrades to be unpleasant, which triggers their anxieties.

Astrologers recommend against having significant conversations that could change the course of relationships or signing contracts during Mercury retrogrades (or, if contracts can’t be avoided, reading the fine print very carefully). They also suggest not making major electronics or vehicle purchases during this time and being extra careful with small handheld items such as cell phones, which may be more easily lost. Other recommendations include allowing an extra time buffer when traveling and double-checking e-mails and texts before sending. Clear and careful communication is important during a Mercury retrograde, as people are more likely to misinterpret each other’s meanings, intentions, or motives.

There is a tendency to blame Mercury retrogrades for everything negative that happens during the planet’s ‘backward’ period, but the Mercury retrograde may actually be highlighting areas of life that could be changed for the better. Periods of Mercury retrograde are good times to re-evaluate aspects of your past and try to view them from a new perspective to improve your overall outlook on life.

Mercury retrogrades are also good times to reflect on and re-evaluate the goals you developed in the past and think about whether they are still valid or could use an overhaul to bring them into line with your current situation, feelings, and aspirations. However, although this is a great time to review your options, plans, and goals, don’t move forward with major changes until the Mercury retrograde has passed.

Some people believe that Mercury retrograde influences will be felt most strongly in the areas of life ruled by the zodiac signs through which Mercury is transiting during the retrograde. For example:

    • A Mercury retrograde in Virgo might affect health, nutrition, detail-oriented work, or the ability to perfect and control things.
    • A Mercury retrograde in Cancer would be felt in relationships with mothers or mother figures, long-term romantic relationships, children, the home or domestic life, dreams, sensitivities, and emotions.
    • A Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius would influence education, luck, legal issues, spirituality, and travel as well as stirring up feelings of restlessness and dissatisfaction with life that encourage risk taking.

When is Mercury retrograde?

Mercury will be retrograde during the following dates (note: Mercury moves through the signs at a slightly different rate than the sun, so the times that Mercury is in a particular sign don’t always line up with Sun signs, which change between the 19th and the 22nd of each month).


    • February 16 – March 9, 2020 beginning in Pisces and ending in Aquarius
    • June 17 – July 12, 2020 in Cancer
    • October 13 – November 3, 2020 beginning in Scorpio and ending in Libra


    • January 30 – February 20 in Aquarius
    • May 29 – June 22 in Gemini
    • September 27 – October 18 in Libra


    • January 14 – February 3 beginning in sign Aquarius and ending in Capricorn
    • May 10 – June 2 beginning in Gemini and ending in Taurus
    • September 9 – October 2 beginning in Libra and ending in Virgo
    • December 29, 2022 – January 18, 2023 in Capricorn


    • December 29, 2022 – January 18, 2023 in Capricorn
    • April 21 – May 14 in Taurus
    • August 23 – September 15 in Virgo
    • December 13, 2023 – January 1, 2024 in Sagittarius


    • December 13, 2023 – January 1, 2024 in Sagittarius
    • April 1 – April 25 in Aries
    • August 4 – August 28 beginning in Virgo and ending in Leo
    • November 25 – December 15 in Sagittarius


    • March 14 – April 7 beginning in Aries and ending in Pisces
    • July 17 – August 11 in Leo
    • November 9 – November 29 beginning in Sagittarius and ending in Scorpio


    • February 25 – March 20 in Pisces
    • June 29 – July 23 in Cancer
    • October 24 – November 13 in Scorpio


    • February 9 – March 3 beginning in Pisces and ending in Aquarius
    • June 10 – July 4 beginning in Cancer and ending in Gemini
    • October 7 – October 28 beginning in Scorpio and ending in Libra


    • January 24 – February 14 in Aquarius
    • May 21 – June 13 in Gemini
    • September 19 – October 11 in Libra


    • January 7 – January 27 beginning in Aquarius and ending in Capricorn
    • May 1 – May 25 in Taurus
    • September 2 – September 24 beginning in Libra and ending in Virgo
    • December 21 – January 10, 2030 in Capricorn


    • December 21 – January 10, 2030 in Capricorn
    • April 12 – May 6 beginning in Taurus and ending in Aries
    • August 15 – September 8 in Virgo
    • December 5 – December 25 beginning in Capricorn and ending in Sagittarius

For more astrology articles, see Sun Sign PersonalitiesMarriage by Sun SignSun Sign Compatibility, Moon Signs, or the main Astrology page.