inquiry What is the origin of the phrase "it's raining cats and dogs?"

Answer

We don’t know. The phrase might have its roots in vikings mythology, medieval superstitions, the useless word catadupe (waterfall), or dead animals in the highways of Britain gift picked up by storm waters.

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an extremely unpleasant weather.  George Cruikshank, 1820. Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, national Gallery of Art

The very first recorded use of a phrase similar to “raining cats and dogs” was in the 1651 repertoire of poems Olor Iscanus. British poet Henry Vaughan referred to a roof that was secure against “dogs and also cats rained in shower.” One year later, Richard Brome, one English playwright, wrote in his comedy City Witt, “It candlestick rain dogs and also polecats.” (Polecats are concerned the weasel and were usual in good Britain through the end of the nineteenth century.)

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Portrait of Jonathan Swift. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

In 1738, Jonathan Swift published his “Complete arsenal of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation,” a satire ~ above the conversations of the upper classes. One of his characters fears the it will “rain cats and also dogs.” even if it is Swift coined the phrase or was using a cliché, his satire was most likely the start of the phrase’s popularity. Various other British writers have employed less well-known phrases, such together “it’s rain pitchforks” or “it’s rain stair-rods,” to describe the shaft-like figure of heavy rains. But Swift’s phrase may have been memorable enough to stick in the mind of the public.

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Puppies under an umbrella. 1914. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Swift additionally wrote a poem, “City Shower” (1710), that described floods that developed after heavy rains. The floods left dead animals in the streets, and also may have actually led neurosoup.orgals to define the weather as “raining cats and dogs.”

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Honorable Mr. Cat. Helen Hyde, 1903. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Why “cats and dogs”?

Again, us don’t understand for certain. Etymologists—people who examine the origins of words—have argued a range of mythological and also literal explanations because that why human being say “it’s rain cats and dogs” to describe a heavy downpour. Here are some of the well-known theories:

Odin, the vikings god that storms, was regularly pictured v dogs and also wolves, which were signs of wind. Witches, that supposedly rode their brooms throughout storms, were often pictured with black cats, which came to be signs of heavy rain because that sailors. Therefore, “raining cats and also dogs” might refer come a storm v wind (dogs) and also heavy rain (cats). “Cats and also dogs” might come native the Greek expression cata doxa, which means “contrary to endure or belief.” If it is rain cats and also dogs, it is raining unusually or unbelievably hard. “Cats and dogs” may be a perversion the the currently obsolete indigenous catadupe. In old English, catadupe expected a cataract or waterfall. A variation of catadupe existed in many old languages.In Latin, because that example, catadupa was obtained from the classic Greek κατάδουποι, which referred to the cataracts of the Nile River. So, come say it’s rain “cats and dogs” might be to say it’s rain waterfalls. A false theory stated that cats and dogs offered to cuddle right into thatch roofs throughout storms and also then be washed out throughout heavy rains. However, a properly kept thatch roof is normally water resistant and also slanted to allow water to operation off. In order come slip off the roof, the pets would need to be lying on the outside—an unlikely ar for an pet to seek shelter during a storm.
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Dog: You definitely have one advantage. Goat: Why so? Dog: Why, the summer showers don’t take the curl out of her horns. E. Warde Blaisdell, c.

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1903. Prints & Photographs Division, Library the Congress.