the devil is beating his wife

the devil is beating his wife
also known as sunshower or sun shower

Meaning | Synonyms

  • raining whereas the sun is shining
  • when the sun is shining yet it’s raining
  • when raining but the sun is shining at the same time

Example Sentences

  1. Today, the devil is beating his wife in our city – it’s raining cats and dog and sun is also shining.
  2. Yesterday, I saw a very rare event which is called – the devil is beating his wife.
  3. In people Southern United States of America usually comes across a weird natural phenomenon known as the devil is beating his wife.
  4. Everybody laughed, when a kid asked her mom, “Mamma, I want to see how the devil is beating his wife“.


Several cultures now ascribed this phenomenon to folkloric tales featuring clever animals or tricksters being related or getting married to the devil. For instance, in the Southern United States and Hungary, when they experience a sun shower, they say “the devil is beating his wife with a walking stick”, while the French would say “the devil is beating his wife and marrying his daughter.”

The illustration of the idiomatic phrase can be explained as that of the devil spitting the fire of hell (the sun rays) and his wife’s tears (the rain).

The first recorded use of this phrase was in 1703 in a French play, “to go and thrash him round the church-yard, as the devil does his wife in rainy weather when the sun shines.” Then years later, a writer Jonathan Swift used it in 1738:

the devil was beating his wife behind the door with a shoulder of mutton.”

Another version was recorded in 1893 in Inwards’ Weather Lore:

“if it rains while the sun is shining the devil is beating his grandmother.”


T 42 Thoughts

42 Thoughts

Grew up in southwestern Virginia near Mt. Rogers where a lot of Scotch-Irish settled. Heard this expression all my life.

- Anonymous October 6, 2021

Grew up in East Tennessee and my grandmother (94 years old, now) would say “the devil is beating his wife” during a sunshower. I just sat through a sunshower and this expression came to mind. Happy to find more info about it! My family are descended from Scotch-Irish, lots of interesting idioms. My husband’s Michigan family have never heard this.

- Anonymous October 5, 2021

Grew up in Nebraska and never heard it. Been in Arkansas 40 years and heard it first from a person who grew up in southern part of state (Monticello). Hardly ever hear it anymore. Interesting that the common element in all variants seems to be an unlikely marriage–like rain and sunshine. The idea of a devil’s wife implies marriage. The beating part is still a mystery. Sunshowers today in Little Rock.

- Stanley G Johnson October 2, 2021

My family is from West Virginia. Somebody (maybe my parents) softened it to “the devil is mad at his wife.”

- Anonymous September 14, 2021

Marylander here, my parents and grandparents on at least one side said this. I say it to people my age (26) and they have no idea what I’m talking about. Nice to finally find out where it all came from and that others know it as well!

- J August 20, 2021

My family is from southeast Georgia and growing up, we always said this during a sun shower. The expression is kind of burned into my brain.

- C July 28, 2021

My grandmother, born 1894, emigrated to US 1914 – would say it but in Polish. I always thought it was a Polish superstition.

- Dorothy J Kaminski July 24, 2021

40 from NC here and grew up hearing it my whole life.

- Mel July 3, 2021

Here in Brazil, we have a saying that expresses almost the same thing but it focuses on the rhyme of the words rather than the meaning. It goes like this: “chuva e sol casamento de espanhol, sol e chuva casamento de viuva” that means: rain and sun spanish’s wedding, sun and rain widow’s wedding”.
It is totally nonsense in English… but in Portuguese, it remains nonsense but it’s got a rhyme.

- Carlos Macedo July 2, 2021

Grew up in South Carolina hearing this from school kids, but my parents are from the north, so they never used this phrase. I live in Tennessee now and have for the past 30 years. I haven’t ever heard this said in Tennessee. Just now, at my home, we had a sun shower, and the phrase came back to me. I told my kids about it, and they said, “WHAT?”… so obviously, they have never heard it before either, and all 3 of my kids were born in Tennessee. It’s funny how things become exclusive to certain regions. I’ve personally lived in six states, but South Carolina is the only place I’ve heard this said.

- Keri H July 1, 2021

My grandmother, a first generation American of German parents, who was born in 1886 in Biloxi, used the expression. It wasn’t used during a thunderstorm, but light rain with sun shining. My mother, born in 1906 explained the expression to me when I was growing up in Tampa, Florida. I’m 75 now (6/26/2021)
We were having light rain and sunshine just now and I Googled to see if the expression was still used and hoping to find the origin.

- Mary June 27, 2021

This is amazing. First, never heard this before. And to hear so many people to explain differences in what it means is remarkable! Looking at it from so many perspectives, I believe that it really deserves much more investigation in an Anthropological sense. Is this from USA? Or is it something that was transported from another country. It is so difficult to discern it’s origins.

- Mark R. June 17, 2021

I grew up in north western Pennsylvania and never heard this phrase. We always looked for the rainbow that usually comes afterwards. I like the Hawaiian version of liquid sunshine. 🙂

- Patricia June 16, 2021

I grew up in New Orleans where we got this weather situation often. My mom (born in 1944) would say it, so I and all my siblings said it also. My ex-husband acted overly offended the first time he heard me say this. I had thought it was at least a national expression, but from his reaction, I gathered not. He had grown up in S. Dakota

- Lql May 13, 2021

I grew up in Atlanta, born in 1959. My whole entire family is from Northwest Ga, from the middle 1800’s. I grew up hearing ‘The devil is beating his wife,” when it was the sun was shining but storming like hell at the same time. I also heard ‘The devil is beating his wife, when it was just sunshine with rain. Big difference!

- Paula Pearson Kaiser May 5, 2021

Heard my Mom saying that “Someone’s mother is crying.” when it rains and sun shines together. From Mumbai, India.

- Anonymous May 2, 2021

If it is snowing and the sun is out, does that mean God is Jerking it?

- Anonymous April 1, 2021

My paternal grandma (born 1909 in Missouri) used to say, “The devil is beating his wife” to describe rain while sun was shining. I asked her why, she didn’t know; it was just something ppl said 😉

- Skitmom March 30, 2021

In Argentina, I’ve heard that if there is a sunshower, a witch is being borne or will be borne.

- Lu🍀 March 27, 2021

My parents were both from Arkansas and they used that phrase all the time!
They would be in their 90’s if they were still here.

- Anonymous February 20, 2021

It’s time to retire this awful expression that normalizes domestic violence.

- Anonymous February 19, 2021

As a young child from Texas I remember my mother saying this. I am 54 now.

- Tommy W Box January 11, 2021

No one is going to marry a devil and therefore a devil is not likely to have a wife. Therefore it means it is an unlikely thing to happen

- Ramesh Joshi January 4, 2021

In Hawaii it’s “liquid sunshine”

- Stephen January 3, 2021

I’m from Arizona, and I’ve never heard anyone say anything even remotely like this. I’ve always wondered what the hell those things were called though, and sun showers does seem like a pretty good name, so thanks for that! I really don’t understand where the idea to describe something like that as “the devil is beating his wife” came from though.

- Emploice Muswashands December 20, 2020

Having lived in Alabama most of my life I’ve never heard this expression. We called it a sun shower.
It wasn’t until I moved to Oklahoma that I heard people refer to a sun shower as “the devil is beating his wife.”

- Unknown December 8, 2020

I heard this saying from my father during the 60’s. We are from East Tennessee.

- Bax Plemons November 6, 2020

North Florida here. I have heard “The devil is beating his wife” all of my 5 decades of life. Even the grandparents used it.
“Sun showers” sounds so much nicer 🙂

- ANON September 6, 2020

I’m from Southern, WV. My grandfather always told me when the sun is out and it’s raining, “The devil was beating his wife!”. He grew up in VA.

- Chuck Akers September 2, 2020

I’ve heard that if you put a pin on the ground while the devil is beating his wife, you could hear her crying.

- Betty August 30, 2020

In Bengali the saying for this phenomenon translates to “the fox uncle’s wedding.”

- Anonymous August 26, 2020

As a child in New Orleans in the 50s we used to say, “The devil is beating his wife for putting too much salt in his soup.”

- Brod Bagert August 25, 2020

Interesting that similar expressions exist in Arabic: “Satan is bathing (not beating!) his wife”
Mauritian Creole: “the devil is getting married under the chili bush”, both used in connection with sunshine+rain.

- Hunczutpoffa August 18, 2020

Wow! I have never heard this expression. I am an English born South African and in South Africa we say it is a monkey’s wedding when it rains whilst the sun shines?

- Penelope Weddell July 23, 2020

We actually used to say “the devil is beating his wife and burning his biscuits?!” Where the heck did we get this?

- Anonymous July 22, 2020

I was born in Virginia near where the Earl Hamner (Walton) family was from. My grandfather always said when it rains when the sun is shining it means the devil is beating his wife.

- Mike Webber July 15, 2020

I have also heard that if the sun is out when it rains that in Puerto Rico’s version is that it means “The Witch is getting Married.”

- Luv2laf July 2, 2020

I heard that if you put the pin in a tree you could hear her crying.

- Luv2laf July 2, 2020

Funny, in Marion, SC, a coworker during a sun shower “the devil is beating his wife”… I said “where the heck did you hear that?” She then said “if it lightenings during a sun shower, ‘the devil is beating his wife behind the kitchen door’”

Cracked me up!

- Pati July 1, 2020

I heard that when it is raining while the sun is shining that the devil is beating his wife and that if you stick a pin in the ground, you can hear his wife crying and screaming.

- Anonymous June 21, 2020

Learned from my grandmother when I would play in the summer rains trying to find the spot where the rained stopped and began.

- Anonymous June 21, 2020

Cool, never knew this

- Me December 9, 2018

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