raining cats and dogs

raining cats and dogs

Meaning | Synonyms

  • too much heavy rain
  • torrential rain
  • very heavily raining
  • raining tremendously

Example Sentences

  1. It’s raining cats and dogs I am worried about how my kids will reach home.
  2. It rains cats and dogs when the Monsoon comes in India.
  3. How will you go to play Cricket today? It’s raining cats and dogs.
  4. When we were returning from the picnic, it was raining cats and dogs.
  5. I think it’s not safe to drive the car now – it’s raining cats and dogs.

Origin

“Raining cats and dogs” is a peculiar expression from the 17th century with uncertain origins. While we can’t be sure who coined the phrase first or what it originally meant, it’s probably not because the beloved pets fell from the sky.

As odd as it is, the phrase is prominent in almost every major dialect of English—from the roots of England to the United States and Canada, to even the multilingual Indian English and the blended Singlish from Singapore.

The phrase isn’t literal, and there is no recorded incident of cats and dogs dropping from the clouds like furry rain clumps. Similar phenomena with smaller creatures such as frogs, fish, and spiders have been recorded as they were sucked from lakes and ponds by waterspouts, but cats and dogs are too big to “rain.”

They may be thrown or fall from tornadoes in an unlucky twister, but the same goes for humans. That would be closer to hail than rain.

A few older explanations for the phrase exist, such as the thatched roof theory. Thatch is a type of padding or cover made woven and bound straw, reeds, palm, or similar plant materials. Long ago when most homes had thatched roofs–, cats and dogs would hide inside the thatch during storms. During heavy rain, the animals would be washed out of the thatch, and the falling could be considered “raining” as a joke that became a popular phrase.

Other origins include a Greek aphorism meaning “an unlikely occurrence”, and the French word catadupe, which is an old French word forcataract or waterfall.

Another idea from comes from old British towns that lacked proper construction. Because of poor town design and flood risks, cats and dogs would drown whenever there was a major storm. People would see the dead bodies of the animals floating by as if they had dropped from the sky like a proverbial rain of frogs.

And one more interesting reference comes from Norse mythology. Cats and dogs were taken to sea and on Viking raids because of myths, as pets, and as beasts of burden, but cats specifically were thought to have influence over storms. There are multiple versions of the myths and superstitions from the Viking era and into the medieval times. In some explanation, cats had great influence over storms or weather in general while dogs were a signal in wind. In a similar explanation, cats were symbols of torrential rains and the dog attendants of the Storm God Odin were gusts of wind. In yet another Norse Pantheon-related description, witches who transformed into cats rode upon the storm to follow Odin and his dog. These dogs, in this case, could refer to Geri and Freki in the Poetic Edda, but the theories are as wild and loose as the storms they describe.

Some of these tales are older than the expression, and even the discussion of where the phrase came from is becoming ancient history. The modern version of “raining cats and dogs” first appeared in Jonathan Swift’s A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation, 1978.

“I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs.”

This wasn’t the first time Jonathan Swift used the particular words for precipitating pets. In 1710—30 years before Ingenious Conversation—he wrote a poem named A Description of a City Shower with the following ending lines:

“Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud, Dead cats, and turnip tops, come tumbling down the flood.”

In 1653, a similar, older phrase was written in a work called The City Witt by English playwright Richard Brome:

“It shall rain dogs and polecats.”

In this phrase, polecats are mentioned instead of cats. Polecats are relative to the weasel and were common critters in Great Britain during Richard Brome’s time.

The sources, similarities, and cultural influences are hard to separate. While there is no definite victor in the debate over who coined “raining cats and dogs”, at least it’s not raining elephants.

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R 14 Comments

14 Comments

AuthorTheIdioms.com writes on 3rd August 2018

Dear Deepa,
It is an idiom. It can also be classified as a metaphor as the rain is being compared to cats and dogs.

Kind Regards

AuthorDeepa writes on 2nd August 2018

Is it an idiom or paradox or a metaphor? What kind of expression is it?

AuthorTim Chan writes on 28th June 2018

I think Raining Cats and Dogs originated long time ago when strong winds (hurricanes or typhoons) grabbed up some cats and dogs and deposited them elsewhere. That ‘elsewhere’ received the animals together with the heavy rain and thus the saying started. 🙂

AuthorRobert writes on 20th June 2018

Aliens… Dogs, Cats and Birds are aliens watching us. They came to earth from above.

AuthorIra writes on 5th April 2018

Please can anyone tell a story on it 😕

AuthorClyde writes on 1st April 2018

It really is. Heavy rains especially in the Philippines feels like there are cats and dogs playing catching game above the roofs. So yeah.

AuthorAnny writes on 2nd August 2017

Thanks for the phrase examples it’s very useful now I can tell some of this examples to my teacher.

AuthorGwen writes on 9th July 2017

This idiom is my favorite it’s raining cats and dogs, because of the sentence cats and dogs are raining above the sky??
Haha😆

AuthorSylvia Stead writes on 30th June 2017

This is one of my favorite idiomatic phrases of all the times, whenever I use it in my class, all of my students start smiling at me. The best thing about this idiom is “Dogs” and “Cats”, most of the humans like either cats or dogs, so do they the idiom.

AuthorMark Jade Student writes on 28th June 2017

Its about to raining cats and dog 🙂

AuthorLiana writes on 27th June 2017

I wish there are more examples :/

AuthorSahiran writes on 7th February 2017

Can anyone tell a story on it.

AuthorMonque writes on 28th March 2015

Haha, This is actually funny because when it rains really bad my kids say mommy it is raining like cats and dogs and I say what’s that mean they say it is raining really like as if there really were cats and dogs I just seen this website and I will definitely show my son and daughter this they will love it thank you so much and I hope you guys can come up with more and powerful and inspiring things thank you <3

Monique Fleming

AuthorShadha writes on 25th October 2016

Now only I came to know what is this idiom is about, thanks for showing me this meaning.

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