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What's the usage of the adjective "starry" for a speaker that has English as a mother-tongue? How frequently it is used?

A starry night sky.

or

A night sky full of stars.

or

A night sky starring... stars?.

Could it be used as some kind of “cosmic metaphor,” as in the Lovecraftian

Church of the Starry Wisdom.

Considering the latter, one could not say:

Church of the Wisdom Full of Stars.

Because if one could say such a thing, why not say

A star starring starry stars, each one full of stars.

then?

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  • That means stellar wisdom in the Lovecraftian church: wisdom from the stars. It’s different.
    – tchrist
    Jul 16, 2013 at 23:48
  • Celestial is a synonym of starry.
    – Kris
    Jul 17, 2013 at 6:18

3 Answers 3

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That’s a lot of rather confusingly jumbled questions asked all at once.

The only way I would use the word ‘starry’ with any real frequency is expressions like a starry night or a starry sky. It can also be used for things that are star-shaped (the dictionary gives ‘tiny white starry flowers’), but I find ‘star-shaped’ infinitely more natural in these cases—and besides, I can’t think of the last time I needed to use such a word in natural language use.

‘Starring’ is from the verb ‘to star’ which is mostly used of movie stars appearing in films (or occasionally of decorating something with stars: ‘a golden-starred scarf’). As such, “a night sky starring stars” is comprehensible, but quite an odd expression.

‘Church of the Starry Wisdom’ doesn’t sound like an unlikely name, though it doesn’t convey much meaning. ‘Church of the Wisdom Full of Stars’, on the other hand, sounds quite nonsensical.

“A star starring starry stars, each one full of stars” is fine grammatically and even to a certain degree semantically, but it makes no astronomical sense whatever: stars are distinct heavenly bodies and cannot contain other stars.

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I agree with Janus Bahs Jacquet's answer in substance, but I'd like to clarify the usage of ‘starry’ in ‘Church of the Starry Wisdom.’

H. P. Lovecraft is using ‘starry’ to mean ‘of the stars’ or ‘from the stars.’ This is a poetic sense of the word, no longer common in spoken or written English. ‘Starry Wisdom’ is not ‘full of stars,’ but extraterrestrial or cosmic — like the gods in the Cthulhu Mythos.

Incidentally, you can expect to encounter such antique usages frequently in Lovecraft's prose.

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  • Simply stellar!
    – tchrist
    Jul 16, 2013 at 23:48
  • Literary interpretation and critique is off-topic on ELU.
    – Kris
    Jul 17, 2013 at 6:17
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    This answer is not literary interpretation, it’s a linguistic comment on an example given in the question asked. Jul 17, 2013 at 10:16
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A starry sky means you can see the stars in the sky, because the sky is clear of clouds.

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  • And that it's night.
    – user867
    Jul 17, 2013 at 3:41
  • @user867 I nearly included that - but didn't want to be overstating the obvious! But it could also be during an eclipse!
    – TrevorD
    Jul 17, 2013 at 11:02

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