Posted by: Jack Henry | November 17, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Under the Weather

Dear Editrix,

I have heard the phrase “under the weather” all my life and I know it typically means that someone is not feeling well. Are there any other meanings that differ and where did the phrase originate?



Dear Christy,

Indeed, the term “under the weather” is an English phrase that means someone is feeling sick. I didn’t find any different meanings for the idiom, but I did find the origin.

Several sites provided a similar answer about its history, but I liked the one from the Farmers’ Almanac the best because they said they love learning phrases about the weather. It also references Richard Lederer, whose articles I share with y’all now and then.

Linguist Richard Lederer tells us that “under the weather,” meaning, feeling ill, comes from the language of sailors.

On the high seas when the wind would start to blow hard and the water became rough, crewmen and travelers would go below deck and down to their cabins to ride out the storm and avoid becoming seasick. In this way they literally retreat to a location “under the weather.”

In digging a little further, we find out more. According to Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions, by Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey, the term in its entirety is “under the weather bow;” they tell us the weather bow is “the side [of the ship] upon which all the rotten weather is blowing.”

I hope that you have a great day and that you stay above the weather!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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