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What Does Raining Cats and Canines Imply? Origins of the Phrase

Final Up to date on: August 9, 2023 by Crystal Uys

very heavy rain in the backyard

The phrase “raining cats and canines” is a standard expression used to explain heavy rain or a sudden downpour. Whereas the phrase’s which means is well-known, its origins are much less clear. Many theories recommend the place the phrase got here from, starting from sensible to legendary.

Some recommend the phrase originated from the poor drainage techniques in Seventeenth-century Europe. In the meantime, others consider that it might have its roots in Norse mythology. One other principle suggests the phrase was a French phrase misheard by English audio system.

Whereas there’s no definitive reply, analyzing these theories can inform us how the phrase has developed. Let’s discover the varied theories in regards to the origins of the phrase “raining cats and canines.”

What Does “Raining Cats and Canines” Imply?

In trendy utilization, the idiom “raining cats and canines” is usually used to explain very heavy rain. It typically has the connotation that the rain is surprising or sudden. For instance, somebody would possibly say, “I used to be going to take a stroll, but it surely’s raining cats and canines on the market.”

The phrase also can describe different issues coming down closely or in giant portions. For example, somebody would possibly say, “The leaves are falling prefer it’s raining cats and canines.” That will describe a very heavy autumnal leaf fall.

Alternatively, they might say, “My inbox is filled with emails; it’s raining cats and canines in right here.” It might describe an amazing variety of incoming messages.

Total, “raining cats and canines” is a standard and versatile idiom used to explain heavy rain. It might additionally outline different issues coming down closely, in giant portions, or in a chaotic or disorderly scenario.

heavy rain outdoors in the garden
Picture Credit score: chulmin1700, Pixabay

Origin of “Raining Cats and Canines”

The origin of the idiom “raining cats and canines” is unsure. It has been a subject of a lot hypothesis and debate amongst language consultants for hundreds of years. Whereas the true origin of the phrase is unknown, a number of theories element the way it might have come to be.

Listed below are some cultural and historic references that assist present context for its use. In addition they make clear the varied associations and meanings the phrase has acquired over time.

Medieval Europe

It’s believed that “raining cats and canines” got here from medieval Europe, the place folks constructed their houses with thatched straw roofs. Thatched roofs have been widespread as they have been straightforward to assemble and offered good insulation. However, throughout heavy rain, the straw would crush the roof, inflicting it to break down.

Small animals, like cats and canines, would generally cover within the rafters of those roofs to flee the rain. When the roof would collapse throughout a heavy rainstorm, the animals would fall from the roof. This surprising sight throughout heavy rain may need led folks to say it was “raining cats and canines.”

Whereas there isn’t sufficient proof to help this principle, it’s widespread amongst language consultants. So, it’s typically instructed as a potential origin of the phrase. The speculation has some historic benefit, as thatched roofs have been widespread in medieval Europe.

These roofs typically collapsed throughout heavy rain within the medieval period. Moreover, cats and canines lived as pets and may need sought shelter within the rafters throughout a storm.

Norse Mythology

One other “raining cats and canines” principle suggests it got here from Norse mythology. In Norse mythology, cats and canines have been related to storms and dangerous climate. The Norse god Odin owned a pair of cats he despatched into the clouds to battle with Thor, the god of thunder.

The cats would claw on the clouds and make them launch their rain, resulting in the idea that cats precipitated rain. So, the phrase described the concept throughout heavy rainstorms, these mythological creatures have been preventing within the clouds and inflicting the rain to fall extra closely.

Whereas there’s little to no proof to help this principle, it serves as a potential origin of the phrase.

heavy rain in the streets
Picture Credit score: Benfe, Pixabay

French Phrase “Catadoupe”

One other principle means that it might have originated from the French phrase “catadoupe.” In French, “catadoupe” means waterfall or cataract. This phrase might have entered England throughout the Norman Conquest of 1066 when French grew to become the language of the English courtroom.

When spoken rapidly or with a regional accent, “catadoupe” might sound like “cats and canines.” The phrase was presumably misheard and repeated by English audio system. Ultimately, it grew to become the English expression “raining cats and canines.”

Whereas little proof helps this principle, it’s a believable rationalization. The truth that many individuals spoke French in England throughout the Center Ages makes it plausible. The similarity between “catadoupe” and “cats and canines” additionally provides to its plausibility.

Greek Expression

One other principle means that it might have come from the Greek expression “cata doxa.” In Greek, “cata doxa” means “opposite to expertise or perception.” This expression was used to explain conditions that have been surprising or opposite to what one would possibly count on.

“Raining cats and canines” describes an uncommon and surprising scenario that appears opposite to perception. If it was raining so laborious that it appeared inconceivable, folks would possibly say it was “raining cats and canines.”

The truth that “cata doxa” and “cats and canines” sound comparable may have contributed to its evolution. However no clear proof means that the phrase was borrowed from Greek.

Jonathan Swift’s Poem

One principle suggests the phrase refers to poor drainage techniques on buildings in Seventeenth-century Europe. Throughout heavy rain, the drains on buildings may develop into clogged with particles and different supplies. Consequently, they’d overflow and disgorge their contents onto the streets under.

This might embrace the corpses of any animals amassed within the drains. It was a grim and ugly sight for onlookers.

This principle is referenced in Jonathan Swift’s 1710 poem “Description of a Metropolis Bathe.” Swift describes a heavy London rain that sends disagreeable gadgets together with the flood. That features “drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud, useless cats and turnip-tops.”

“Raining cats and canines” describes an disagreeable and surprising sight. So, it’s per the concept it originated from seeing animal corpses and different particles throughout heavy rain.

a woman and a child standing by the streets while raining
Picture Credit score: JumpStory

European Folklore

One potential reference is the affiliation of cats and canines with witches and their familiars in European folklore. Through the Center Ages, cats and canines have been typically portrayed as companions of witches. The animals have been additionally believed to have magical powers.

Thus, the concept of cats and canines falling from the sky throughout heavy rain might have been seen as a supernatural incidence. It was believed that these witches may management the climate. Individuals additionally thought they may use their powers to make it rain cats and canines as a type of punishment or to trigger chaos.

The affiliation of those animals with witches dates again to the medieval interval. Cats have been additionally thought to speak with spirits and shape-shift into different animals. Equally, canines have been thought-about to have the facility to detect and chase away evil spirits.

The phrase might have served as a warning of impending hazard or an indication of dangerous luck.

Animal Welfare within the 18th Century

One other reference is the affiliation of cats and canines with animal welfare within the 1800s. Throughout this era, there have been considerations in regards to the therapy of cats and canines in city areas. The animals have been typically uncared for or mistreated in these areas.

The phrase might have been used to draw consideration to the plight of those animals. It additionally presumably inspired folks to be extra conscious of their welfare.

Nonsensical Phrase

There are various theories on the origin of the phrase “raining cats and canines.” Nevertheless it’s additionally potential that there is no such thing as a clear or logical rationalization for its origin. It may very well be a nonsensical phrase used for its humorous or exaggerated impact.

It may have described notably heavy rainfall with none underlying metaphor or symbolism. It resembles different English expressions for heavy rain, like “raining pitchforks” or “raining hammer handles.” These expressions convey the depth of a storm with none deeper which means.

It’s additionally potential that the phrase developed from many alternative origins and influences. As with many facets of language and tradition, the phrase’s origins might have been misplaced or forgotten. New interpretations and meanings emerged because the phrases have been handed down by way of generations.

Finally, the precise origin of the phrase “raining cats and canines” might stay a thriller.


“Raining cats and canines” is a widely known expression used to explain heavy rain or a sudden downpour. Regardless of its widespread use, the phrase’s origins stay mysterious. There have been a number of totally different theories proposed over time.

No matter its origin, its reputation highlights how language and tradition evolve. From historical myths to sensible issues, the phrase has been formed by quite a few cultural and historic influences.

Featured Picture Credit score: sirtravelalot, Shutterstock

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