When I was a small child, my father decided that I needed to develop an appreciation for beauty. Being a product of US Army basic training, his solution was to make me stand at attention in a field for an hour every morning and evening to watch the sun rise and set. I can’t claim to have any finer of an appreciation for beauty than the next guy, but I did develop an interest in what happens in the sky and how that affects the lighting of the world around us. Here is some vocabulary for talking about related phenomena in French:
- aube f.: dawn. Technically, this is the beginning of the morning twilight, before the sun rises. (I actually learnt this word from the Italian opera L’incoronazione di Poppea. I was watching Poppea in Paris with French sub-titles, and had to figure out what aube meant to be able to follow the lyrics. That’s Zipf’s Law for you.)
- l’aurore (n.f.): dawn, daybreak, sunrise, crack of dawn.
- le crépuscule: twilight, dusk. Technically, this is the atmospheric light before the sun rises and after it sets. (We have a cognate of this word in the term crepuscular ray, the name for those rays of light that you see coming out of clouds sometimes.)
- le lever du soleil, le lever du jour: sunrise.
- le coucher du soleil: sunset.
- du matin au soir: from dawn to/till dusk.
- entre chien et loup: at dusk. This is a great one–literally, it means “between dog and wolf.” One native speaker explains it this way: “It was always presented to me as the moment when dogs time is over, dogs come inside, and wolves’ time begins, wolves are out there all around.”
Native speakers of English commonly use dawn and sunrise interchangeably, and I get the sense from French web pages that French speakers might use aube and lever du soleil the same way. Can some native speaker address this in the Comments? Finally: scroll down for some examples of the use of entre chien et loup on Twitter.