It’s Raining Cats and Dogs! – Words about Rain

Posted On: March 23, 2015

One day many years ago when I was working at Harvard University, my colleague who just entered the office exclaimed, “It’s raining cats and dogs out there….” as she shook the water off her umbrella, closed it and sat at her desk. 

It's Raining Cats and Dogs! - Words about Rain

As I empathized with her and said, “It’s so hard to stay dry outside today…. I am just dreading when I have to go out,” she looked over at me with a huge smile. I asked her what she was so happy about. She said, “Do you know when I came to Puerto Rico from the US some twenty years ago, someone said that phrase to me, “raining cats and dogs”? Do you wanna know what I did? I got up and looked out the window because I thought… wow everything happens in the US, even dogs and cats fall from the sky! I was sorely disappointed when I did not see any cats or dogs and couldn’t even see the next building because it was raining so hard! I felt like an idiot. What did this phrase “rain cats and dogs mean”? I got up the courage to ask my colleague who said that to me, who told me it meant that it was raining really, really hard, like pounding rain. Now, today, I looked at you, used that idiom with an American and you totally understood me, and I felt like now I can speak American English…. to an American… and you understand me!” 

Jennifer Kumar, blog author, visiting her old colleagues at Harvard.

The story I told above is very common. It could happen any day, anytime, anywhere with anyone! Maybe you are walking into a Starbucks or into a gas station in the US during a rainstorm, and a similar conversation could ensue. That’s because of all small talk topics, Americans love to talk about (read, complain about) the weather. 

While there are many ways to talk about the rain in the US depending on how hard or light it is falling, learn a few ways we talk about rain in the US from Andrea.

This video is published by Study with Andrea. Embedded with permission.

Some other rain-related vocabulary includes: 

Downpour – A lot of rain falling at once, usually hard hitting 

Drizzle – light rain, misty 

Pounding down – hard rain, so hard you can hear it hitting the house 

Raining really hard 

Sprinkling – light rain, similar to drizzle 

One more to add is monsoon (where it rains like cats and dogs for weeks or months!)! Though the word monsoon is not so common in the US, there are monsoons in the desert southwest (Arizona, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico).  In fact, did you know that in India, where monsoons are common, there is such a thing as “monsoon tourism?” in the video below, the blog author talks about this while standing on the balcony of her old house in Kerala, India. 

If you are curious how a monsoon may look in the US desert southwest, the video below is from one of our trips to Sedona, Arizona during the desert monsoons. These monsoons are not like the ones experienced in India. Though it can rain heavily, it doesn’t seem to last for hours, days or months. However, the one thing in the desert you need to watch out for are flash floods. Even a small amount of rain falling many, many miles away can cause a flash flood through canyons (like this one in Wild Horse Slot Canyon), washes and desert areas (like this one in Arches National Park) that have killed many people. See a video of that on YouTube from Page, Arizona.

Coming from the ‘cats and dog’ monsoon rain of Kerala, this particular video of rain in Arizona doesn’t seem to be ‘cats and dogs’ style rain, but it IS for this area!

Keeping up to date with the weather is an obsession for many Americans. Many local tv stations play weather reports every hour, on the hour. Learning the English of your local area can be made easier by watching the local news (not cable news) to watch the weather report that is chocked full of idioms, phrases, local slangs and local accents. Check out this post to see and hear what I am talking about.

To learn more about idioms used during professional conversations, see the PDF below.

Jennifer Kumar helps Indians and other expats in the US building understanding and empathetic relationships with their American counterparts at work.

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