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In Asian languages such as Japanese, we can choose not to make distinction between star like the Sun, planet like the Earth, and satellite like the Moon, calling them in a word usually translated as "star" (星). Does English allow to call a planet "star" too? I found out a definition of star in a dictionary say:

a planet or a configuration of the planets that is held in astrology to influence one's destiny or fortune —usually used in plural

but what I'd like to know is whether it's possible to call real planets in the space in such a way, or there is a blanket term roughly covers star, planet, satellite and asteroid (but not nebula or galaxy).

EDIT
Thank you for your comments. It needs to be clarified that I didn't intend to refer to "stars you look up at in the sky". Actually, we're able to form such a sentence, too.

タトゥイーンという星には約20万人が暮らしている。
Around 200 thousand people are living on a "star" called Tatooine.

You can see 星 can replace "planet" (惑星) in every situation unless you have to tell planets from other bodies. Is it possible in English?

  • In short, I think the answer is yes, stars can refer to planets too. When looking up at the sky (and you're lucky enough to sparkling objects), you would refer to them as the stars. Correctly or not, this would include planets. – Em. Aug 19 '16 at 4:28
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    @Max Depends on context. If you're looking up at the night sky and calling all those points of light "stars" then you're so very close to 100% correct that I couldn't possibly object. But if you talked about the various types of "stars" that make up our solar system, you're going to get a funny look from me. – jez Aug 19 '16 at 4:35
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    If I go outside and say "look at all the stars", I am probably referring to any bright point of light in the sky (but not the moon). It is more about point-of-view than what the objects are in reality. Other than possibly Mercury or Venus, it is unlikely you would know what any one of them is, without a "star" chart. – user3169 Aug 19 '16 at 4:36
  • @Max & user3169 Thanks for comments, please see my updated question! – broccoli forest Aug 19 '16 at 5:01
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    It is worth noting that in astrology, the sun and moon are both planets, but the Earth is not. – James K Aug 19 '16 at 18:01
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Along roughly the same lines as Mr. Dant, I would say star can be used to refer to a planet in only two context in contemporary English:

  1. A mistake of ignorance when looking up into the sky. That star is pretty bright.

  2. Some specialized usage in astrology.

We could not say two hundred thousand people are living on that star.


Addendum, if we use the plural "stars", then we can say things like:

And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19, ESV)

or

When I look at the stars, I think all of the people in the universe.

We know that "stars" would include the stars and the planets. This usage of "the stars" is a synonym for "the heavens"


the best generic term we have is the scientific one "celestial body." In popular usage, I (being completely ignorant of astronomy) might call anything I look up and see at night (other than the moon or a plane) a star.

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    This usage of "the stars" is a synonym for "the heavens" - like a pars pro toto :) – CompuChip Aug 20 '16 at 7:55
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Does English allow to call a planet "star" too?

Only in one very limited sense and that is when referring to Venus.

Due to its orbital radius, size, etc, planet Venus is often visible in the morning around sunrise and in the evening around sunset. It is referred to as "the Morning Star" or "the Evening Star". These names are nowadays nicknames or used in poetry or to make speech more interesting.

Ancient observers seeing points of light in the sky named them stars. Some of these stars, such as Venus, were observed to appear in different positions compared to other stars: They were said to wander. Hence they were called asteres planetai with asteres meaning "star" and planetai meaning "wandering". Planetai has since been introduced as "planet" and it no longer has meaning as "a wandering point of light in the sky" but as "a ball of rock or gas (of a certain size) that orbits a star". (Please be aware that there is no good definition of some important terms in astronomy.)

While many people learn as children that planets were called wandering stars in the past, calling planets stars is abnormal and wrong today.

what I'd like to know is whether it's possible to call real planets in the space in such a way, or there is a blanket term roughly covers star, planet, satellite and asteroid (but not nebula or galaxy).

You can see 星 can replace "planet" (惑星) in every situation unless you have to tell planets from other bodies. Is it possible in English?

There is no blanket term.

In astronomy, due to the significant variation in mass, energy output, life cycle, often diameter of astronomical objects there is no collective term that refers to "stars (self-luminous bodies) and planets and asteroids and moons (natural satellites) and comets". There has simply been no need or desire for such a term.

Humans have only been aware of asteroids for a very short amount of time (215 years). They were discovered by scientists and for about 50 years "asteroid" (once the term was invented) and "planet" were used interchangeably in the scientific community but asteroids weren't a topic for general conversation. No popular term arose to refer to both at the same time since scientists saw them as different and needing to be distinguished and the public was largely unaware of their existence.

Comets were called, to some extent, stars by the ancients. They were seen as bad omens and were called "disasters" ("dis" evil/bad, "aster" star). Nowadays education is such that many children and adults are aware that comets are balls of ice and rock, often with a tail -- some even know the tail is caused by solar radiation ablating the nucleus -- and are distinct from planets and stars.

Aside from Earth's moon, which has never to my knowledge been called a star in English, other moons have only been known for about 406 years. Galileo called those early discoveries stars but that name has long since been abandonned in favour of satellites or moons.

Contrary to that dictionary, I am not aware of any instance in Western/Ptolemaic astrology where stars can be called planets. Planets are called "planets" and that term includes Pluto, the sun and moon may be called "luminaries", there are calculated positions called "nodes" where the moon's orbit intersects the ecliptic. Stars scarcely feature except as the backdrop against which the planets/luminaries/etc move.

A quick search showed up only the plural word stars as in "what's in the stars?" and "it's written in the stars". It appears "stars" is being used as a metonym to mean "prognostication by observing astronomical bodies". Maybe "star" was used in astrology historically but I don't think it's widely used now.

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    "n astronomy, due to the significant variation in mass, energy output, life cycle, often diameter of astronomical objects there is no collective term that refers to "stars (self-luminous bodies) and planets and asteroids and moons (natural satellites) and comets". There has simply been no need or desire for such a term." That is untrue. "Celestial body" is such a term (although it also includes nebulae and galaxies, but also stars, planets, moons, comets, asteroids and more). – Polygnome Aug 19 '16 at 13:37
  • Much like we have shortened "minuta prima" and "minuta seconda" to "minutes" and "seconds" - anyone now calling a "minute" a "first" or a "second" a "minute" is just wrong. – OrangeDog Aug 19 '16 at 14:37
  • @Polygnome No, it's not untrue. I said there is no such term for "A, B, C, and D". You said there is a term for "A, B, C, D, E and F". The limit of my set was the four items of interest to the original poster. You introduced both of the two items the OP had explicitly excluded. Not the same set, therefore the term does not apply to just those four items. – Smartybartfast Aug 20 '16 at 1:18
  • @Smartybartfast You can use "Celestial body" for the things the Op wanted and "Celestial object" for the superset with nebulae and galaxies as well, although that distinction is not so well known. You are right, I have explained that incorrectly. – Polygnome Aug 20 '16 at 8:45
  • +1 for the reference to Venus. There always seems to be an exception in English! – J.R. Aug 20 '16 at 9:35
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In English, our dictionaries tell us, outside of astrology, a star (when the word refers to an object in space) cannot be a planet (any of the large bodies that revolve around a star.) A star is a natural luminous (not reflective) body visible in the sky especially at night.

Before Kepler, Copernicus, Brahe and Galileo, et al., Star in English meant exactly what means in Japanese (and, as you say, in several other Asian languages.) In Chinese, I believe it also refers to what we call in English a five-pointed star (☆).

Even today, children (and adults who haven't made it a point to learn where Venus, for instance, is located) still refer to every heavenly body that glows in the night sky (except the Moon) as a star. Some remember the dictum that "planets don't twinkle," but many don't, and it is sometimes difficult to determine whether or not an object is twinkling.

We can say then that although our English dictionaries provide the scientifically accurate definition of the word star, in use it very frequently still means just the same as .

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"Astronomical object", "celestial object" and "celestial body" are all terms that encompass planets, stars, moons, asteroids, etc. In the case of the "celestial" ones I don't see why they couldn't apply, at a stretch, to man-made satellites too.

But I do not know of a one-word catch-all term. I certainly don't think "star" works. A star and a planet are different things (which is a way of saying that their definitions do not overlap in the way you suggest).

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    Please explain what you mean by "a stat is a star and a planet is a planet" and indicate clearly whether or not a "star" can mean a "planet". – Em. Aug 19 '16 at 4:30
  • @Max: The English phrase "an X is an X and an Y is an Y" means that X and Y are non-overlapping categories. Most well-known example: East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet (Rudyard Kipling, The Ballad of East and West) – MSalters Aug 19 '16 at 11:51
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    @MSalters I did not mean it for my sake. I understand what it means. I meant for the sake of learners and others who read the post. In other words, this user should post definitions in order to make the answer a high quality one. This is a low quality post that is in clear conflict with the definition provided by OP. That is the entire point of the post! – Em. Aug 19 '16 at 11:56
  • As the question makes clear, the OP understands that "a star and a planet are different things," as will every other new learner who encounters this question. Does the last paragraph provide some value which I have overlooked? – P. E. Dant Aug 20 '16 at 19:01

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