Rain, Rain, What do “you” say?

Rain must hold a special place deep in the human psyche. Expressions about rain have such interesting imagery. I can’t think of many words that evoke such vivid images.

For instance, in English, if it’s pouring out, you can say, It’s raining cats and dogs. If there’s thunder, some people say God is bowling. At least that’s said to little kids.

You can also say, It’s raining buckets. That’s interesting because in French, there’s the same expression, Il pleut à seaux.*

The French also have the saying, Il pleut comme vache qui pisse. In English, that’s… It’s raining like a cow that’s pissing.

More politely, the French would say, Il tombe des cordes. That expression is literally, It’s falling ropes, or we’d say, Ropes are falling.

There are also expressions for more violent rain. In Spanish there’s, Caen chuzos de punto. Which means, Spears are falling point first. Similarly, in French there’s, Il tombe des hallebardes. That means, Halberds are falling. A halberd is a weapon that was used during the 14th and 15th centuries. It has a spiky axe on the end of a pole. You can see halberds in the image below. They sort of look like falling rain.

Photo of Halberds

Finally, in Occitan (a language spoken in parts of southern France, Spain and Italy) they say, Tomba de rabanelas. That means, Wild radishes are falling. They also say, Tomba de pèiras de molin – Mill stones are falling.

Feel free to comment below about expressions concerning rain that are said in cultures you’re familiar with.

Many thanks to Monique of Mama Lisa’s World en français for telling me about some of the expressions about rain in French, Spanish and Occitan.


Come visit the blog category about rain for some songs and rhymes about rain.


Monique later wrote me…

Spaniards also say, “Llueve a cántaros” to say “it’s raining buckets”. It literally means the same thing. Portuguese have the same expression about buckets, “Está a chover a cântaros” = it’s raining buckets. Italians have “piove a catinelle”, which means “it’s raining basins/bowls”.

This article was posted on Thursday, July 13th, 2006 at 12:46 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, English, Expressions about Rain, France, French, Languages, Occitan, Occitan, Rain, Spain, Spanish, United Kingdom, USA, Weather, Words & Phrases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Responses to “Rain, Rain, What do “you” say?”

  1. James Says:

    In England we also say ‘It’s raining stair rods’, which were/are steel rods that kept your stair carpet in place…

  2. R J Ward Says:

    In Afrikaans (South Africa) a saying for heavy rain is: “Dit reen ou meide met knopkerries” which means it is raining old women with knob sticks. It refers to the shape seen when a drop of rain falls onto a pool’s surface.

  3. shimke Says:

    In Yiddish, curiously, one does not only say “es falt a regn” – the rain is falling” but more commonly “es geyt a regn” – the rain is walking! — A heavy rainfall is a “shlaksregn” or a “mobl” (the latter is derived from the ancient Hebrew word for the Biblical flood) and a snow storm is a “zaverukhe”. — As children in Brooklyn in the 1950s we used to chant in a sing-song rhythm: “It’s raining, it’s pouring,/ The old man is snoring, / He went to bed / And bumped (or broke?) his head / And couldn’t get up in the morning.” — very happily, perhaps because, at least to my childish imagination, if it rained hard enough maybe they would close the schools and I wouldn’t have to get up in the morning either!!! — A French expression “Il n’est pas ne’ de la derniere pluie” – He (or she or I) wasn’t born from the most recent rain, meaning he is not naive or gullible, he’s been around. — Also re: rain – in the 40s or 50s Morton salt company advertized their specially treated salt which didn’t cake up from the humidity with a picture of a boy in a rubber raincoat carrying a leaking pkg of salt, over the caption “When it rains, it pours.” [When the weather is damp, even when it is raining, the salt does not cake but pours freely. This also is a reminder of expressions like “It never rains, it pours.” Meaning that when troubles come, they do not come in little bits, but hit you forcefully and all together. Another chant (I have only a fragmentary memory of this one: “Rain rain go away / Come again another day / Little Johnny wants to play”

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