Weather Expressions in Latin

Some of the more common impersonal expressions in Latin are those that describe the weather.

  • grandinat, it’s hailing
  • pluit, it’s raining
  • ningit, it’s snowing
  • fulgurat, there’s a lightning bolt! (A&G have ‘it lightens’)
  • tonat, it thunders
  • rōrat, there’s dew on the grass

Note that these verbs can take subjects (Iupitter tonat) but they don’t have to. A&G are incomplete here, so let’s try to extrapolate on other ways the Romans might have describe the weather. I’m working with the assumption that these impersonal expressions are much like those of modern Romance languages (hace calor, fa caldo, it’s warm). The Latin expressions ought to cover the same range, right?

  • calidum est, it’s warm
  • frigidum est, it’s chilly
  • hūmidum est, it’s humid
  • nubiliōsum est, it’s cloudy
  • partim nubiliōsum est, it’s partly cloudy
  • ventōsum est, it’s windy
  • lūcet, it’s sunny
  • partim lūcet, it’s partly sunny

The impersonal list in A&G technically covers ‘verbs expressing operations of nature and the time of day,’ so here are two more entries in the list:

  • vesperāscit, it grows late
  • lūcīscit hōc, it grows light

The Essential AG: 208a

9 comments on “Weather Expressions in Latin

  1. caroline redbrook says:

    Well, I learned that we use the neuter, ie, “Frigidum est.” “Calidum est.” Don’t recall the grammatical reason.

    • rsmease says:

      I can see some semantic reasoning behind there, especially if we’re extending the sense in which these expressions are ‘impersonal.’ Still, I would be more convinced these should be neuters if they were attached to an implied neuter noun.

      • rsmease says:

        On second thought, after reading some Plautus I feel you might be right! There’s a contraction meaning ‘it’s clear out,’ ‘sudumst’ which implies this is expressed with a neuter. I still can’t figure out why.

      • Nōmen Nesciō says:

        ‘Caelum’ is used to mean ‘the weather’ broadly speaking. I’ve seen it multiple places, but Traupman’s Conversational Latin p. 137 will do for a cite. I have been taking it that the neuter is used in descriptions of the weather because ‘caelum’ is the implied antecedent.

  2. Frank Broeke says:

    I would like to propose ‘ventosum est’ for ‘it’s windy’: ‘ventusum’ is attested nowhere in the Latin literature.

  3. Julie says:

    The two modern romance examples you give use ‘has’ rather than ‘is’, although the Plutarch in the comments certainly points to ‘is’. Curious.

  4. […] I printed out the Latin for Addicts Weather Expressions and gave each student a copy. This has an extremely wide variety of weather expressions, not just […]

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