This morning I was pondering the things in the English language which have not been given a name, such as 'the Sun' or 'the Moon'. These do not seem to fall into the same category as 'the ground' or 'the sky' which seem a lot more spatially vague. In cases where an implicit place is referred to, for example: 'we went to the ocean', the thing also has a specific name.

Is there a reason why English has not given a name to the Sun or Moon? Other languages seem to have gone to the effort to name the big fiery thing in the sky, for example: Sol, Helios, Güneş.

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    I think that 'the sun' counts as a name. There's only one; we refer to other giant, bright balls of hydrogen as 'stars'. In fact, you capitalize Sun if you're referring to it in an astronomical context.
    – Nathan G.
    Feb 6, 2011 at 20:12
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    @Nathan - I agree, there are lots of stars, but we gave this one a name, the Sun. There are also lots of moons around lots of planets, but this is the Moon.
    – ukayer
    Feb 6, 2011 at 20:17
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    @Nathan - yes... but English predates this sort of astronomical view.
    – dave
    Feb 6, 2011 at 20:34
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    Sigh. Doesn't anyone at EL&U read sci-fi? In which it's standard practice to call our sun Sol or at least something else other than the Sun. Mind you, now I think on it, I don't know any special proper noun in sci-fi distinguishing our moon from Ganymede, Phoebe, Io, etc. Jul 9, 2011 at 2:53
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    @FumbleFingers Earth's moon is most often called Luna in sci-fi.
    – Lawton
    Jun 15, 2012 at 0:18

4 Answers 4


Posted as answer, as requested:

I think that 'the sun' counts as a name. There's only one; we refer to other giant, bright balls of hydrogen as 'stars'. In fact, you capitalize Sun if you're referring to it in an astronomical context

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    Not quite: 'the Sun' is a name, but future colonists may refer to the sun of their world (see what I did there?) as 'the Sun' while meaning what we call Alpha Centauri. Similarly, people across the world refer to 'the Civil War'; they don't all refer to the same event, but a distinguisher is only needed if more than one is referred to. Jun 11, 2011 at 17:21
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    For the reasons mentioned by @TimLymington, science fiction frequently uses "Sol" to refer specifically to star that is home to Earth. Technically, that name could also be applied by anybody to their own star too for similar reasons, but not in (current) English, so that is sufficent to differentiate. SF writers also tend to use "Terra" for Earth for a similar reason, although admittedly people would be less likely to call their non-Terra planet "Earth", than they are to call their non-Sol star "the Sun". Sep 21, 2011 at 14:23
  • Just because there's more than one person in the Universe named "John Smith" does not mean that "John Smith" is not a name.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 29, 2015 at 21:01

Your question contains an implicit assumption which is unfounded: the words sol in Latin, helios in Greek, and güneş simply mean "sun". They are names for the sun in exactly the same way that the English word is the name for the sun. If you doubt this, consider the following: is there some generic word for "sun" in either Latin or Greek that contrasts with the proper names sol/helios? (I don't know Turkish, so I won't comment on güneş.)

In other words, we do have names for the big bright light that appears during the day, and the smaller, waxing and waning disk that appears at night. Those names are "sun" and "moon". Other burning balls of hydrogen are called "stars", and satellites orbiting other planets may be "moons", but they're not the moon.

(HT: Nathan, who gave the correct answer in a comment.)

  • Fair point. I do not know Latin or Greek so appreciate the feedback of those that do. I do know some Turkish but, since it lacks articles, it is hard to make a direct comparison with English.
    – dave
    Feb 6, 2011 at 23:19
  • Continuing from above comment... I found it interesting if that if you were typing into your car's GPS, very few addresses start with 'The': The Sun, The moon, The Milky Way. It is probably significant that these all culturally unique and important.
    – dave
    Feb 6, 2011 at 23:26
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    @dave: I just wonder what you find lacking in the names "the sun" and "the moon". What about them is not name-like? There isn't only one ocean; you can say "the ocean" if a mutually understood reference has been established in discourse (just like any common noun), but that is not like "the sun". Since there are many oceans, you can also say "I'd like to live near an ocean". You can't say "I'd like to live in a place where a sun shines every day".
    – Kosmonaut
    Feb 6, 2011 at 23:33
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    @dave: Naming your kid "the boy" would be different in two major ways. One, people never have "the" in front of their name, and two, there are billions of boys and girls, so naming your child "the boy" would be extremely impersonal. But there is only one sun and one moon — and before space exploration, stars weren't even thought to be the same thing. There are thousands of proper names with "the" at the beginning, like "The United States", "The Beatles", "The Shining", etc. I really think you see the other languages' words as more "name-like" because they aren't your first language.
    – Kosmonaut
    Feb 7, 2011 at 14:48
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    @dave: "Allah" actually is "Al-lah" meaning literally "The god"; thus implicitly the only one, just like "The sun" implies (even if we now know it's jus one of many stars), that's why a Muslim would not say "The Allah", that would be just as silly as saying "the The Beatles".. Mar 22, 2011 at 10:16

"The sun" is its name in English, just like "Sola"/"Solen" (definite form of "sol") is its name in Norwegian. While "sun" may refer to the hydrogen fusion ball in the sky or its light, just like "sol" does in Norwegian. A name with "the" or a definite article doesn't make it less a name. If a name for something is in a definite form (i.e. "the" in english), it usually implies it's the only one.

For instance "united states" could be any union of states, while "The United States" is almost definitely a short form of "The United States of America" aka. "USA".


All stars are suns, and all suns are stars, but there is only one Sol, and there is only one Solar System. Other planetary systems are known by their own astronomical nomenclature. Just as there are plenty of moons in the Solar System, but only one Luna (Earth's moon). Right? Right.

  • Actually, there are many solar systems, but only one Solar System, just as there is only one Sun and only one Moon.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 29, 2015 at 12:29
  • Are all stars suns? I would only consider a star to be a "sun" from the perspective of an orbiting object. If there is no such object, the star would not be a sun. And I don't think all stars have planets or equivalent satellites. As for "moon," I've heard several definitions; while it's common to refer to the "moons of Jupiter," some people seem to prefer to reserve the term "moon" for Luna and use the term "satellite" for other bodies (possibly modified by the adjective "natural").
    – herisson
    Jul 30, 2015 at 0:27

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