The term under the weather is an English phrase that means someone is feeling sick or sad.
Example: I got hired as a car mechanic and I start first thing tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’ve also come down with an illness. I don’t want to miss my first day of work because I’m feeling under the weather, but I also don’t want to show up and possibly spread what I have to others. What should I do?
Synonyms: in a bad way, not feeling so hot, sick as a dog
When someone is feeling sick or sad, they might describe themselves as being “under the weather.” Where did this common phrase come from? Its origin may have to do with sailing. Commenting on the origins of this phrase, the website The Phrase Finder mentions that in older times, when a sailor was feeling seasick, he would be sent below deck so he could get away from being under the harsh weather.
According to another source, a book called Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions by Bill Beavis (Author) and Michael Howorth (Author), this phrase originally meant to feel seasick. It also mentions:
“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’s the origin story for this idiom. Now let’s talk about its age. The earliest I could find it in print is from the newspaper Jeffersonville Daily Evening News, 1835:
“‘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.”
- A few days after Elise returned from her vacation in Florida, she started feeling under the weather.
- My friends want me to go play with them at the park, but I’m under the weather today so I have to stay inside.
- I have so many chores to get done today, but I’m not feeling so hot right now, so they will have to wait until later.
- He had to cancel his dentist appointment because he was lying in bed all day as sick as a dog.
Note: Know Your Phrase (this website) has a big list of popular sayings that you can check out. Use the menu at the top to find them, there are hundreds to explore! You can learn what they mean and for some, where they came from. After choosing a letter from the menu, you will be taken to a list of expressions that correspond to the letter you selected.