‘Sunset' vs 'Sunrise': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on June 2, 2023

Do you want to know the difference between 'sunset' vs. 'sunrise?' If so, you are in the right place!

This guide will teach you the difference between these two terms. It also gives definitions, pronunciations, and examples to help you remember how and when to use each term.

Before we start, are you short on time? 

If so, here is a short answer: 

  • 'Sunset' is a noun, adjective, and verb for when the sun goes down before nightfall. 
  • 'Sunrise' is a noun for when the sun comes up and the day begins. 

The short answer will get you by if you need to know which word to use. However, there is more to learn about these terms. So, stick around until the end of this post.

What's the Difference Between 'Sunset' vs. 'Sunrise'

'Sunset' and 'sunrise' describe a time of day. The first describes the time between afternoon and evening when the sun begins to set or go down in the sky. The latter is the time in the morning when the sun starts to appear in the sky.

  • If you tell someone to meet you at 'sunset,' you want them to meet you in the evening.
  • If you ask them to meet you at 'sunrise,' you want to meet them early in the morning as the sun is coming out.

'Sunset' can also be an adjective or a verb depending on the context in which you are using it. The meaning also differs depending on the term's part of speech.

When to Use 'Sunset' vs. 'Sunrise'

These terms describe times during the day, but how do you know which to use and when? 

  • Use 'sunset' as a noun when you are talking about late afternoon, as the sun is going down and the moon is coming out.

For example, you could say:

I love to watch the sunset and the moon, and stars come out. 

  • Use 'sunset' as a verb to refer to the ending of something or allowing something to lapse.

For example, someone might say:

The old system will sunset as the new one takes its place. 

  • Use 'sunset' as an adjective meaning a stipulation that a program has to undergo periodic reviews to maintain validity.

For example, you might see:

Sunset laws require the organization to undergo periodic third-party reviews to continue receiving government grants. 

  • Use 'sunrise' to refer to the morning when the sun comes out and begins to light up the sky.

For example, I might say:

Will you join us for a 'sunrise' breakfast on the beach?

NOTE: When using either term, if you say the sun rises or the sun sets, you use two words. If you are referring to the time when the sun rises or sets, you say 'sunset' or 'sunrise.'

You would not say:

  • The 'sunsets' in the sky create a vanishing masterpiece that lasts between 20 and 35 minutes, depending on where you are watching it.

The correct sentence is:

  • The sun sets in the sky, creating a vanishing masterpiece that lasts between 20 and 35 minutes, depending on where you are watching it.

Definition of 'Sunset': What Does 'Sunset' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'sunset' means:

  • The descent of the sun

It also means:

  • The time each day when the sun starts to disappear in the sky
  • A slow decline
  • A stipulation requiring periodic reviews of an agency or law
  • Allowing a policy or benefit to lapse
  • Allowing something to run out
  • Failing to renew something

Synonyms of 'Sunset'

  • Dusk
  • Evening
  • Twighlight
  • Night
  • Nighttime
  • Nightfall
  • Eve
  • Sundown

Definition of 'Sunrise': What Does 'Sunset' Mean?

The same resource defines 'sunrise' as a noun that means:

  • The ascent of the sun above the horizon

It can also mean:

  • The point when the rotation of the Earth causes the sun to rise above the horizon

Synonyms of 'Sunrise'

  • Day
  • Morning
  • Sunup
  • Daytime
  • Dawn
  • Daybreak
  • Daylight

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Sunset' vs. 'Sunrise'

Now, let's look at pronunciation because knowing how to pronounce words will help you use them more confidently, whether speaking or writing.

Here is a pronunciation guide: 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'sunset':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'sunrise':


Sample Sentences with 'Sunset' vs. 'Sunrise'

You probably have a good idea of how to use these words, but before you go, look at the sample sentences below. They will help you remember the difference between 'sunset' vs. 'sunrise.'


  • Nothing is more romantic than sitting outside on a cool evening, cuddled up next to someone while you take in the sunset.
  • Some places seem to have more stunning sunsets, but the colorful display is the effect of light from the sun traveling through different atmospheric conditions.
  • It seems like a beautiful sunset is amplified when it reflects off a glistening lake or ocean.
  • Would you like to go on a sunset cruise? It leaves on the 21st of January at 5:45 p.m.
  • Listening to the peaceful sounds at sunset is the perfect way to relax before bed.


  • At sunrise, the air is crisp and smells fresh.
  • Some of the most successful people wake up before sunrise.
  • Research studies show people who wake up before sunrise have better mental health because they absorb more nutrients like Vitamin D from the sunlight.
  • If you get a restful night's sleep, it is easier to wake up at sunrise.
  • If you want to wake up at sunrise, face your bed towards a window and use sheer curtains so the light comes in.


  • Which do you prefer, sunrise or sunset?
  • Have you been on a sunset cruise or a sunrise breakfast boat ride?
  • I love to paint the pale colors of the sunrise and the vibrant colors of the sunset.
  • Sunrises seem more subtle, but sometimes it looks like the sky looks like itis on fire at sunset.
  • She goes to bed at sunset and wakes up at sunrise.
  • On vacation, I like to snap a picture each morning at sunrise and each evening at sunset.

Final Advice on the Difference Between 'Sunset' vs. 'Sunrise'

You should be an expert on the difference between 'sunset' vs. 'sunrise,' but here is a quick recap: 

  • 'Sunset' is a noun, adjective, or verb for when the sun begins to fall below the horizon. 
  • 'Sunrise' is a noun meaning the occurrence of the sun ascending above the horizon. 
  • 'Sunset' is in the evening. 
  • 'Sunrise' is in the morning. 

Now that you have these terms down look at the other confusing word guides here to learn about other commonly misused, misunderstood, misspelled, and mispronounced English words. Each guide gives a short answer and an in-depth explanation with grammar tips, definitions, and examples.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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