If someone is feeling “under the weather,” it means they are feeling sick; ill. It can also mean that a person is feeling sad or depressed.
Example: I got hired at a place that I’ve wanted to work at for a while now. But wouldn’t you know it, I got sick on day one! And it was a bad sickness too. So it was embarrassing to have to call my boss and tell him I couldn’t come in because I was feeling under the weather. But I didn’t have much a choice.
Tip: You can replace the idiom in blue with one of the synonyms below and the meaning remains the same!
Origin Of ‘Under The Weather’
This phrase possibly has nautical or seafaring origins. Commenting on the origins of this expression, a website called The Phrase Finder mentions that in the old days, when a sailor was feeling seasick, “he was sent down below to help his recovery, under the deck and away from the weather.”
According to another source, a book called Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions, by Bill Beavis (Author) and Micahel Howorth (Author), it says that this phrase originally meant to feel seasick, or to be affected by bad weather (while out at sea, I assume). It also goes on to say:
“The term is correctly ‘under the weather bow’ which is a gloomy prospect; the weather bow is the side upon which all the rotten weather is blowing.”
So that is where this idiom is said to have come from. As for the its earliest appearance in print, the earliest recording that I could find is from the newspaper Jeffersonville Daily Evening News, 1835. There’s a part from it that reads:
“‘I own Jessica is somewhat under the weather to-day, figuratively and literally,’ said the gentleman, amusedly, giving a glance at the lady over in the corner.”
- Elise just got back from her vacation in Florida. Sadly, it wasn’t long after her return that she started feeling a bit under the weather. She had a sore throat, a runny nose, and a light fever.
Note: Know Your Phrase has a big list of popular idioms and the meanings for common sayings, so check that out using the menu at the top.
On an unrelated note, I’d like to talk briefly about the origins of some phrases. Sometimes, these are unclear. If that is the case, what you’ll see listed under the “origin” section are either explanations that try to figure out how a phrase came to be. Or, if not that, there will usually be a quote of phrase. These are typically the earliest known appearances of them in print. However, it’s possible that older quotes exist and I missed them.
Moreover, these quotes that contain the expression are there to show you how old it is. For example, if a book from the year 1500 gets quoted because it uses a certain expression, it does not mean it originated from this book. It simply means that the saying is at least that old.