1510s, "to set something in the sun," from sun (n.). Intransitive meaning "expose oneself to the sun" is recorded from c. 1600. Sun-bathing is attested from c. 1600.
c. 1400 of a tool, c. 1600 of a person, agent noun from block (v.1). The U.S. football sense is from 1914.
Old English sunne "the sun," from Proto-Germanic *sunno (source also of Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old High German sunna, Middle Dutch sonne, Dutch zon, German Sonne, Gothic sunno "the sun"), from PIE *s(u)wen-, alternative form of root *sawel- "the sun."
Old English sunne was feminine (as generally in Germanic), and the fem. pronoun was used in English until 16c.; since then masc. has prevailed. The empire on which the sun never sets (1630) originally was the Spanish, later the British. To have one's place in the sun (1680s) is from Pascal's "Pensées"; the German imperial foreign policy sense (1897) is from a speech by von Bülow.