Normally, dictionaries say

"sunny" means "with a lot of bright light from the sun"

Say, normally, there will be a lot of sunlight from about 10am to 2pm.

Usually, from 8am to 9am, there is some sunlight, but not too much. At that moment, can I say "it's sunny outside".

If not, what can I say, for example, "the sun is shining lightly" or something like that?

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    The words you seek are daylight and daytime. You might also say, the sun is out/shining.
    – EllieK
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 14:05
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    If it is a sunny day, we don't generally talk about less sunlight or more sunlight from 8 to 9 am. Would you in your language? Would you distinguish the amount of sunlight? Hmm? This is not really an English question.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 16:34
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    sunny day, rainy day, windy day, snowy day say nothing about how much sun or rain or wind or snow is involved. No, if there is not much sunlight, we don't say sunny. We say cloudy.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 16:38

7 Answers 7


"Sunny" doesn't have to mean that the temperature is hot, but it tends to mean that the sun is out, and visible. When the sun is low in the sky and starting to set, I wouldn't expect anyone to say it was "sunny".

We would say that "it is a clear morning" (or evening), to mean that there is little or no cloud, so it would go without saying that whatever light there is can be seen.

The first morning light is called 'daybreak'. We call the late evening 'dusk', and sometimes describe the low light conditions as "dusky". That doesn't necessarily mean that the skies are clear of clouds. A 'dusky evening' makes me think of a gloomy sunset mixed with clouds.

  • This answer focuses on the evening, but the question has been edited to clarify that the period of interest is "8am to 9am".
    – nanoman
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 11:50
  • @nanoman I used "clear evening" as an example, but I've edited to say morning or evening. I've also added 'daybreak' in alongside 'dusk'.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 13:53
  • You missed the "nuance" of what the sun shining would be from 8 to 9 am. We don't make those distinctions. The sun comes up, shines, and goes down. Variations in sunlight are usually associated with cloud cover or lack thereof. I think these types of questions are not about English.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 16:37
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    Note that let's say you live super up north - Arctic Circle/Scandinavia north. It's very possible that from 08:00 - 09:00 in the summer, the sun is out and indeed very bright. I'd say you can use "sunny" then and it's perfectly fine. However, that's certainly an edge-case.
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 16:51
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    @nanoman that varies considerably depending on time of year and location. 8am can be anything from sun still below the horizon to 3.5 hours after sunrise and the sun at 26° in the centre of England!
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 22:47

We use "sunny" for the type of weather. Sunny means there are no clouds. If you said it was sunny early in the morning, people understand you mean it's a nice day. They would NOT think you're telling them the sun is much brighter than it should be.

Instead of saying "the sun is shining lightly" we might say "it's partly cloudy" or "it's a little overcast". There's no word to say the sun isn't very bright at dawn or dusk, since everyone knows that. If you were looking for something before dawn and the sun wasn't very bright, you'd say "it's not even dawn".

  • Right, just like snowy, windy, rainy. :) It, however, does not describe how much.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 16:39
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    I disagree that "sunny" means "there are no clouds". There can be some clouds, but as long as they're not regularly blocking the sun, it's still a sunny day. Also, you'd obviously never describe a clear night as "sunny". "Sunny" does not imply "cloudless". Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 17:10
  • @NuclearHoagie This is ELL and and I feel as if "no clouds or not enough clouds to block the sun at all" is too complex for a minor point. Can you think of a rewrite that gets across your point without cluttering up the important idea? Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 0:51
  • Good answer. Upvoted because you caught the asymmetry between "It's sunny outside" in the morning versus late afternoon. If I say that at 09:00 without qualification it carries at least a hint of an implication for the rest of the day. If thunderstorms are expected at 11:00, I might say, "It's sunny outside, but it's supposed to rain later" or "...for the time being" or similar. At the end of the day using the present tense feels weird. I might say, "It's gotten sunny this afternoon." Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 17:02

It's sunny when the sun is casting distinct shadows of people, buildings etc. This can happen in the early morning. If there is a light layer of cloud between us and the sun, the shadows don't have sharp edges, but if the light is still quite bright we might call it hazy sunshine.

  • 1
    Hazy usually describes a sky that’s fogged over or otherwise unclear. Light itself cannot be 'hazy' - it is other conditions that cause it.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 8:24
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    @Astralbee Sunlight can most definitely be described as hazy (a quick web search easily finds many examples.) It can also be described as cheerful, stark, cold, harsh, wet, golden, and many other adjectives.
    – barbecue
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 13:19
  • @barbecue I didn't say that it couldn't be described that way. My point was that light itself isn't hazy, other atmospheric conditions cause it. The OP asked whether low light conditions could be described as 'sunny' or not, so I'm just making it clear that 'hazy sunlight' is not low light. Any time of the day could have hazy sunlight.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 13:55
  • @Astralbee - I meant that we can call the weather conditions 'hazy sunshine' if the light is bright even though the shadows are not sharp. Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 14:55
  • @Astralbee the OP never said low light conditions, I think you're reading something into the question that wasn't intended.
    – barbecue
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 20:08

Where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest sunny meant the sun was out (not hidden behind clouds and for most of the day) and was visible regardless of how many clouds in the sky. Party sunny meant that it wasn't blocked by clouds at least part of the day. Where I moved to in California, sunny was sunny all day with no clouds in the sky whatsoever. Any clouds was referred to as "partly cloudy". So the term is vague, at least in the local vernacular. Meteorologists may have a different, official definition

  • the UK (also famously overcast, like the PNW), also tends to use "sunny" just to mean that the sun isn't hidden by clouds at the moment
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 13:20
  • I had never heard the term "sun break" until I lived in Seattle, where it seems pretty common in radio weather reports, no? Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 17:04

To describe the fact that there is daylight, you can use the expression "it's light outside". For example, as the days lengthen in summer someone might remark in the evening, "wow, I can't believe it's still light outside at 9pm!". This doesn't convey anything about the degree of brightness of the sun at the time.

  • 1
    I know it's a common thing to say, but the days don't "lengthen in summer". Actually days lengthen in spring. On the first day of summer (June 21), the days are the longest (daylight period), and the days shorten every following day throughout the summer. Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 9:01
  • I'd suggest lengthen there refers to a non-summer day as its comparison, not the previous day. But it can be taken both ways. Thanks for making an informative point. Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 17:06

Even before 8:00 AM we might say, "it's sunny outside" or "it's bright outside," if there are very few clouds and the sun is casting shadows. If we reference cloud cover regardless of day or night, we might say, "the sky is clear," "there are just a few clouds," or "there are patchy clouds." Before 8:00 AM, we might say, "It's a clear (or cloudless or partly cloudy) morning (or dawn)."

In the opposite conditions of sun and clouds, we might say, "it's dark outside," "it's dawn/dusk/twilight," "it's cloudy/overcast," or "the sky is grey".

The National Weather Service of the United States created meteorological forecast icon images and corresponding text descriptions that it uses on its website to illustrate the weather conditions of a location. The text descriptions are often used by meteorologists on television weather reports.

There also are precise definitions when speaking of science, law, the military, aviation, and naval activity of four (4) specific moments in every period of twilight: astronomical dawn/dusk, nautical dawn/dusk, civil dawn/dusk, and either sunrise or sunset.


It's sunny just means... Simply there is sun outside...

It doesn't declare that it's super hot, or super sunny.

As mentioned in the Cambridge Dictionary:

bright because of light from the sun

It doesn't mention super hot hot or super bright.

Well, sunny is a virtual synonym of "there is sun"...

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