It’s Raining Cats and Dogs (and Wheelbarrows and Old Ladies)
‘It’s raining cats and dogs!’ is a common British phrase meaning that it’s raining particularly hard. There are various theories as to where the expression came from – although there’s no evidence that it’s ever actually happened!
It may come from the Greek expression cata doxa. This means ‘contrary to experience or belief’ and might explain why the expression is used when it’s raining unusually hard.
Equally, it could be derived from the old French word catadupe, which meant waterfall.
An old theory was that in heavy rain, dead animals would often be washed out of drainage systems on 17th century buildings in Europe.
There’s no conclusive answer. It may just be that it was a funny expression that caught on and became popular. We’ll probably never know…
In Britain it also rains buckets, stair rods, tacks and pitchforks… But did you know that in other areas of the world, it rains other things?
Our favourites are:
‘It’s raining wheelbarrows’
Czech: Padají trakaře
‘It’s raining knives and forks’
Welsh: Mae hi’n bwrw cyllyll a ffyrc
‘It’s raining shoemakers’ apprentices’
Danish: Det regner skomagerdrenge
‘It’s raining fire and brimstone’
Icelandic: Það rignir eld og brennustein
‘It’s raining lady trolls’
Norwegian: Det regner trollkjerringer
‘It’s raining husbands’
Spanish: Están lloviendo maridos
‘It’s raining old women with knobkerries’
Afrikaans: Ou vrouens met knopkieries reen (by the way, a knobkierrie is a kind of African club!)
‘It’s raining snakes and lizards’
Brazilian Portuguese: Chovem cobras e lagartos
‘It’s raining frogs’
Polish: Leje zabami
We’d love to know where some of these expressions came from, so if anyone has any information, please share it in the comments!