I mean this always bugged me. You have a thing that destroys stars, but is clearly not a Star itself. It's way too small to be considered a star and its also not bright, so why call it that. The "death moon" or something like that would at least have some kind of relation (even if it doesn't sound as cool though). And why are star destroyers called star destroyers? They don't do any star destroying business? Has this ever been explained why these things are named the way they are (extended counts too)?

Note: Also, why would you name your giant spacestation deathstar, if you actually want supporters of your empire and not be seen as evil to the outside. I mean that highly increases the chance of a rebelion doesnt it?

  • 4
    They already have things called Star Destroyers. Also, the Death Star doesn't destroy stars, it destroys planets.
    – Valorum
    Oct 14, 2016 at 10:19
  • 2
    Rule of Cool applies to names too.
    – Skooba
    Oct 14, 2016 at 12:46
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    See, the OLD empire was caring enough to think about how their superweapons would look like to the people it used it on, and give it a bit of a poetic flair. "Death Star, because people on the planet will look up think, "Oh, look, that's a strange little star!" Only this star brings their DEATH!". Not today, where we get names like "Starkiller base" for a base that kills stars. How on-the-nose. I mean, sure, the old Empire did a lot of bad things, but at least they had a bit of style. Not like today. Kids today think a lightsaber with exhaust vents is cool. Oct 14, 2016 at 13:23
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    The name "star destroyer" isn't meant to imply that it destroys stars. It means a destroyer-class starship. We known from dialogue that there are also "star cruisers."
    – Buzz
    Oct 14, 2016 at 13:38
  • 1
    Related do-the-imperials-know-they-are-evil?
    – RedCaio
    Oct 14, 2016 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


Consider that the word star is indeed used in British English and American English for anything that you can, let's say, "see in the sky" (even if it has literally nothing to do with A Sun).

Great examples are words like "Telstar" and "OnStar" ...

So, it's commonplace to have sentences such as "What's that star - actually that's the space shuttle" or indeed just "that star there is Jupiter". Indeed, consider, before modern times every "point of light" in the sky was a star - whether actually a galaxy, planet, "shooting star", actually a Sun, or anything else.

(The term "shooting star" particularly gives the feel of the more archaic, poetic, meaning of "star".)

I appreciate that the death star is a large object (more like a moon) when seen from relatively close - but then, a Sun, or indeed a GPS satellite, is "large" when seen from a certain point. You can easily imagine the Death Star being a twinkling point from another planet in it's construction system - So, picture this, we're on Earth and it's a slowly-growing "new moon of Jupiter" - quite ominous; a death star indeed.

Consider too that simply, in the very title "Star Wars" the word "Star" doesn't literally mean the hot burning balls of gas - if you think it through, it more means "planetary systems": it's literally the planets (the dwellers thereon) warring, it's not literally the Suns or anyone living on the surface of the Suns, warring!

"Planet Wars" or perhaps "planetary-system wars!" would "make more sense" but doesn't sound as good!

Thus, an excellent answer to your question is this:

Canonically, "star" in "Death Star" is being used in exactly same poetic, somewhat archaic way, as: in the very title of the series.

And that's pretty canon, right?! :)

  • Plus, consider that if one were on the surface of a planet one would see a "new star" in the sky, one that brings death. We already know it's large (too big to be a space station), and generally light in color so it would likely look at least as bright as Venus, at firing range, possibly much larger.
    – Seeds
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:05
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    Completely agree with Joe here, the short answer simply being that STAR means a large celestial object, which the Death Star clearly is Oct 14, 2016 at 18:20

Wookieepedia states the Death Star had an optimum range of 2,000,000 kilometers. To put that in perspective the distance of the moon from the Earth is 384,400 km.

Now consider that the first Death Star was stated to be 87 mi (140 km) in diameter with a volume of 220,781 cubic miles, or (to give perspective) approx. 1/25 the size of our Moon.

Given the size and optimum distance from target and with the light catching it just right, it would look very much like a large-ish, bright star in the night sky (possibly the day time as well).

A star that brings death. Hence the name.

  • 1
    This is terrific info. I had no idea the DS was "only" 140km in size (I incorrectly assumed it was more like a "small moon") - good one.
    – Fattie
    Oct 14, 2016 at 19:37

Mention was made in the Legends material (formerly the EU) that the Death Star's official designation was "DS-1" or "DS-1 Platform". It's unclear whether the designation or the name came first - if the designation came first, it may have given the idea for the more poetic name.

Also in Legends, there is mention that the cover story for the construction of the Death Star was that it was a planetary ore-extractor, designed to blow apart uninhabited worlds to more easily extract minerals from their core. Obviously that's untrue, but it would suggest that the DS-1 designation came first - it wasn't built under the name "Death Star".

As for why it's called "Death Star" when it's not a star - the name works in a number of ways. First, there's the fact that "star" is often used symbolically to refer to space in this series - see Star Destroyers, Star Dreadnoughts, Star Cruisers, Starfighters. Second, there's the idea that the DS-1 is a 'star' of death, in the metaphorical sense of "being really good at it". Third, if it's in high orbit it would likely be seen as just another star in the sky, as any point of light is.

Hopefully, the upcoming Rogue One will give us some more information and back story about the name.

  • I just thaught it was strange to give the name star destroyer to the one thing that is not destroying stars in your arsenal
    – Meerkat
    Oct 14, 2016 at 15:19
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    "Star Destroyer" isn't a description of the ship's job, it's a type. It's a Destroyer-type ship that operates among the stars. It's a Destroyer of the Stars, not a Destroyer of Stars.
    – Werrf
    Oct 14, 2016 at 15:41
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    Much like a "spaceship" isn't something you use to ship space around. It's just a ship that works in space. But Star Wars tends to use "star" to mean "works in space, among the stars".
    – user22502
    Oct 14, 2016 at 17:14
  • Heh! Both those comments are first-class :)
    – Fattie
    Oct 14, 2016 at 19:38

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