Nicknaming the sun Phoebus

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**** Info via Environment Canada

Nicknaming the sun Phoebus

On a cloudy day, a person looks out the window saying: “Oh, come out Phoebus!”. . Whether you’ve heard it or not before, that’s the name some Canadians call the sun. So, where does that come from?


In poetic language, Phoebus is a personification of the sun. The name Phoebus comes from the Greek word “bright, shinning”. It was a nickname given to Apollo, the sun god who rides a chariot of fire through the sky. In Greek mythology, Apollo’s grandmother is called Phoebe, and her parents were Ouranos (sky god) and Gaia (earth goddess). Quite the celestial family!

In Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet cries: “Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds, / Towards Phoebus’ lodging.” In other words, Juliet is urging the horses of Phoebus’s chariot to run faster. This way, the sun will set and she can be with Romeo.

In the English language, the name Phoebus gained popularity in the 18th century and then faded, except being passed down by some.

French Canadians use a different nickname: Galarneau. The Breton settlers to New France still used the word “galerne” which was a northwest wind, but in the St. Lawrence valley, it gave them sunny conditions. And the name Galarneau was born!

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