If you’ve ever heard someone say they’re “under the weather,” you may be surprised to find out this expression has nothing to do with hail, sleet or snow. People say “under the weather” to express that they’re feeling ill or unwell.

“Under the weather” is an idiom, which is a phrase whose meaning is different from the meaning of the words themselves.

Believe it or not, historians think this idiom comes from the sea. In the days before airplanes, people usually traveled by ship.

During storms, the seas would get rough, causing ships to rock back and forth. The rocking motion often caused passengers to become seasick.

Seasick passengers would head below deck to a lower point where the rocking was less noticeable. Passengers were thus forced under the deck by the weather… and the expression “under the weather” was born!


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    • We’re really glad you liked the video for this Wonder of the Day®, Luke! We think the Muppets are AWESOME, too! :-)

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  1. The above explanation for ‘being under the weather’ is nice but not accurate.
    The expression stems froma naval tradition, where the captain wrote the names of sick people in his log. Sometimes when an outbreak of some sickness or other caused more names to be entered than there was room in the collum of the log, the captain entered the excess names in the next collum, which was the collum for the weather. Thus the sailors names appeared ‘under the weather’

    • Thanks for sharing this information with us, Peter! We are so appreciative of the WONDERful people like you who make Wonderopolis a great place! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What does the idiom “under the weather” mean?
  • Where did the phrase “under the weather” come from?
  • How can socks that have lost their mate be put to good use?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Don’t you hate it when a sock goes missing? Where could it be? Did the dryer eat it?

If you’re like most people, you probably have a stash of mate-less mystery socks in your laundry room. It’s time to abandon your search and put those loner socks to good use… as rice-filled heating pads!

The next time you’re feeling a little under the weather, pop your heating pad in the microwave for a few seconds and prepare to get well soon.


Still Wondering

We don’t mean to rock the boat, but we urge you to do some deep-sea exploration with National Geographic Xpeditions’ interesting Introduction to Waves!


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Wonder What’s Next?

If today’s wonder had you feeling under the weather, tomorrow’s wonder will help you predict it! Let’s head to the bookshelf. It’s time to explore the almanac!

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