Under the weather, and what does that mean?

Under the weather, and what does that  mean?

I’ve been under the weather, lately. You know what I mean, that feeling of malaise, sniffling, sneezing, coughing! I have a cold, but no doubt the gray sky and rain contributes to the gloomy mood–to be under the weather, weighed down by the cover of clouds.

Under the weather–you know the feeling–sick, tired, exhausted. Who isn’t feeling under the weather these days, with the current climate in Washington?

Where did the expression “under the weather”  come from?  Tom Skilling, chief meteorologist at WGN-TV, was asked this question in his column Ask Tom Why.  You can read his answer here.

He suggests two possibilities–one, that weather  conditions can affect moods, cause headaches, aggravate arthritis, etc.  Studies have been done to confirm this.  And we know from experience that we may feel more energized and optimistic  on a sunny day, like today.

The second meaning comes from the nautical expression “under the weather bow,” meaning the side of the ship that is facing the prevailing winds.

Many of our familiar weather sayings originally come from farmers and sailors. The Old Farmer’s Almanac  further expands on the expression “under the weather bow.”  They suggest that sailors would take shelter from bad weather  by going below decks to ride out the storm.  Literally, they would be “under the weather bow.”  You can read more here.

This is one of  The Urban Dictionary definitions of  “under the weather” —

During the days when ships were powered by sail, the captains log documented everything that happended during the day. As sickness could spread rapidly on a ship,there were often times where the number of sailers that were ill exceeded the space provided in the log to record their names. During these times, the excess names of the sick were recorded in the next column, which was reserved for the weather conditions of the day. Thus, it was not unusual for an ill sailor to be listed “under the weather”.

Yes, that also makes sense to me. What do you think?

In a way, we are always under the weather, under its  influence. We are in the weather, and part of it, too. I hope you are feeling more positive energy today, under the sun and blue.



Filed under: history, seasons, weather

Tags: under the weather


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  • I love this post! I adore finding out where words come from, thank you!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Oh Kathy, I am so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    I am putting a link to it in my post tomorrow. I just really enjoyed it!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    I can't wait to read your post! Thank you.

  • 1. I believe in it to the extent of SAD when the sun is not out (somewhat a problem here; much worse in upstate N.Y.) and my sinuses seemed clearer in Fla, although I could smell the air pollution.

    2. The only way one can't be under the weather is to be standing on a geyser. Then it is under you.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks again, Jack.
    Yes, SAD is a real problem with less daylight in winter, too.
    A geyser, or a volcano!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Depends on whether a volcano is considered weather, although it is hot and affects the weather.

  • Sorry I am only now catching up to this one; I was, er... well... .

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Thanks for reading...I hope you're feeling better!

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