Ye’ll Ken It’s Summer When the Rain’s No’ Sae Cauld

With snowdrops out and the first crocuses showing colour, we may not yet be in Spring but the assiduous visitors are already planning their holidays. So, rather than banging on about politics (again), I thought we might provide a little guidance when it comes to that key variable in vacations: weather.

Given that we are talking about weather in Scotland, we are (despite ‘Sunny Dunny’s protests about being the driest place in Scotland) talking about rain. And, like the eskimos have fifty words for snow, so the nuances that the Scots can make regarding precipitation takes some translating.

Punch once ran one of its many hilarious cartoon digs at the Scots in which a tourist passes a grizzled gamekeeper in the middle of a downpour who, when greeted with “nasty weather” replied “aye, ah doot it’s threatenin’ tae dry up”. Here follows a rough guide for furriner and sassanach alike so that they may better understand local meteorology:

“braw” = a bright day that threatens no rain
“dootful” = although fair now, no clarity whether it might rain later or not
“lowerin” = no rain but low clouds make the day seem dull
“nae drouth” = no rain but with high humidity
“nae washin the day’ = no rain but rain expected
“threatenin'” = no rain but dark clouds imply rain soon
“lyin’ fir mair” = wet ground from recent rain with more expected soon
“haar” = a mist you get wet in as you walk through it (actually a cloud at ground level)
“scotch mist” = a haar so dense you don’t have to move to get wet
“showery” = if it’s not raining, it soon will be and vice versa
“drouthy” = intermittent rain (like showery but with more rain than none)
“cloudburst” = sudden, intense rain shower that seldom lasts more than a few minutes
“thunderplump” = worse than a cloudburst and normally accompanied by thunder and lightning
“dreich” = steady but not particularly heavy rain with low clouds and little sign of relief
“squally” = a dreich day but with wind to blow the rain around
“pelters” = rain and wind together that make umbrellas unmanageable
“stoatin’ doon” = a dreich day but with large drops of rain
“drookit” = a dreich day but with dense drops of rain
“stair rods” = intense and persistent rain with large and/or dense drops of rain
“richt sou-wester” = intense and persistent rain with gusting winds from varying directions
“whitecaps”  = intense and persistent rain with winds strong enough to whip drops from puddles

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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2 Responses to Ye’ll Ken It’s Summer When the Rain’s No’ Sae Cauld

  1. Angus McLellan says:


  2. davidsberry says:

    Excellent point—probably should lie between Scotch Mist and showery:

    “Smirr”—actually raining but indistinguishable from dreich until you go out and get wet.

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