"Raining cats and dogs" means it's raining a whole whole lot, and it's coming down hard.

It is possible that the "cat" bit of the phrase is derived from the Latin word "catadupe," or the French "catadoupe," each meaning "waterfall." Or the phrase might be a bastardization of the Greek "cata doxas," literally, "contrary to experience," also meaning an unusual amount of rain. It is also a possibility that I am making this up as I go along. But I'm not.

The phrase might be a corruption of the old Pennsylvania Dutch saying "raining cats and ducks," cats meaning witchcraft, ducks meaning rain. Makes a little sense - witches + rain = lots of extra-bad rain.

Or, the source could be mythological. Sailors from many cultures consider cats to have influence over storms, and English sailors still say a cat "has a gale of wind in her tail" when it is unusually frisky. In the Harz mountains, the stormy northwest wind is called "the cat's nose." Dogs have long been symbols of storms. Odin, the Norse storm god, is often described as having both dog and cat companions. In old German illustrations, the wind is depicted as the head of a dog or wolf.

The phrase first appeared (in its present form) in 1738, in Jonathan Swift's   A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation:   "I knew Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs." A variant form occurred as far back as 1653, playwright Richard Brome's City Wit:   "It shall raine ... Dogs and Polecats."   We're not sure what that one means.

It has also been seriously suggested that, a long time ago, British streets were drainage-less and so poorly constructed that many cats and dogs would drown whenever there was a storm. People seeing the corpses floating by would think they had fallen from the sky, like biblical rains of frogs and locusts. Michael B. Quinion destroys this theory best: "If you'll believe that, I would suggest you are both credulous and unobservant of the speed at which both cats and dogs can move to get out of the weather."

Whirlwinds can do some weird stuff. We all know about the frogs and bugs. There one account of a "fish fall" in India in which people found fish weighing up to eight pounds. There have been instances of rains of fish, frogs, grasshoppers, and ice-coated ducks, but there is as yet no account of a rain of cats and dogs.

thanks to:

It's raining cats and dogs, from a cloud of pregnant angry gods. Most fall to the ground and splatter, leaving an ever growing sea of fur and gore. Some fall in swimming pools, and scurry out. Some fall on trampolines next to bouncing children. A great dane falls on a baby carriage, and a kitten falls in the wide-open, screaming mouth of its grieving mother, choking her like Mama Cass. A tabby screams briefly, impaled on the antenna of a radio tower. Vultures from all over the world gather and feast.

The gutters are clogged with cats and dogs. Churches, mosques, and synagogues are defiled with their blood. Maggots rule the eco-system and flies multiply until the sun no longer rises. One cat splatters on the windshield of a man who is out of windshield-wiper fluid, and he sits in his car crying as a cacophony of meows and whimpers continually ebbs and flows, terminating in an unending, horrific series of thuds.

The storm continues, spreading across the Earth. Astronauts in the International Space Station comment that it looks like an ugly, red-tinged mold is covering the planet. Soon, the Earth starts to swallow the cats, dogs, and other creatures that have died, and only corpse-eating rats, flies and maggots still live, manuevering through a pile of rotting flesh and decaying bones. A few vultures not knocked dead by the falling cats and dogs still peck at the carcasses.

Never say "It's raining cats and dogs." Ever.

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