Calm Before The Storm

Meaning:

A peaceful period of time that comes before a busier and/or more difficult one.

Example: Logan was asked to babysit his two nephews. For the moment, Logan’s house is nice and quiet, but he knows that once his nephews arrive, that will all change. After all, they are loud and will probably make a mess of the place with their toys. Thus, while Logan is enjoying the peace for now, he knows it’s the calm before the storm.

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
the lull before the storm
Thunder storm, rain and lightning

The Origin Of ‘Calm Before The Storm’

This phrase likely originates from something that happens with the weather—the fact that there is sometimes a calm, or serene period that comes shortly before a storm hits an area. You may have experienced this for yourself before. Being outside, the sky is cloudy, but the notable thing is how tranquil everything feels. There’s no wind blowing; the air is still and quiet. It looks as though even the birds have packed up and left; everything looks and sounds peaceful.

However, not long after, the wind picks up and buckets of rain start to fall. Yes, that peaceful time is now over and has been replaced by a hefty storm. This sort of occurrence that sometimes happens in the weather is thus applied figuratively to other situations that are similar to it. That is, situations with a calm period that lead into a louder, more chaotic one (like in the example above with Logan).

Of course, not all storms have a time of tranquility that comes before. Prior to many of them, you’ll see strong winds whooshing about. Or you’ll notice the storm coming from miles away because of hearing the sound of thunder roaring in the distance. So sometimes there is a calm before them, and other times there is not. But why is that?

Well, here’s the thing: When it comes meteorology stuff, I’m not very knowledgeable on it. So to avoid looking like a complete buffoon by attempting to explain it, how about I instead transition quickly to another topic and hope you don’t notice? Alright, here we go:

So… how old is this expression? It was in use hundreds of years ago, so it’s pretty old. For example, this phrase makes an appearance in a play as early as the 17th century. That play is called The Dumb Knight, written by Lewis Machin and Gervase Markham, around the year 1601:

“Coloquintida.
Fast lock’d in her bed, with a close ward to devour thee my brave paraquito; but hush, no words, there is a calm before the tempest.”

As you can see in the quote, the word “tempest” is used instead of “storm.” Even so, it’s similar enough. The earliest I’ve seen of this saying with the exact wording it has today is from a book called The Remarks of Jeremiah Jingle, by Jeremiah Jingle, printed in 1807:

“She in all probability attributing my emotions to regret of her mighty displeasure, with the most charitable intention in the world assumed a calm before the storm was half exhausted, and to quiet my anxiety, good naturedly began to hum a love-air.”

So it looks like this saying is at least 410 years old.


Example Sentences

  1. I work as a chef at a restaurant. Around lunchtime, we only get a few customers, so things aren’t so hectic in the kitchen. But this is the calm before the storm, because once dinnertime rolls around, this place fills up and things get real busy real fast.

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