The Meaning of Under the Weather: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what the term under the weather means? This article will provide all of the knowledge you need on the term under the weather, including its meaning, origin, usage, and more!

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What does the phrase under the weather mean?

According to Collins Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, and other dictionary apps, the phrase under the weather means not feeling well, or feeling slightly ill. This English idiom may be used to describe someone who has a cold or virus, but is less commonly used to describe someone who is drunk or intoxicated. 

If someone is feeling under the weather, they might choose to stay home from work, decide to see a doctor, take medicine, or attempt to self-diagnose themselves. Under the weather is a very common idiom that is used in both British English and American English. Usually, under the weather describes someone who is feeling only slightly ill – perhaps they have a headache or a sore throat. It would not describe someone with an intense or severe illness, but could be used to describe someone who has a cold or low-grade virus.

According to To Fluency, if someone is feeling under the weather, they may also use another similar idiom – “fighting something off.” This idiom means that someone is feeling slightly ill, low energy, or unwell, but that they believe their body is fighting off an infection and they are not sick yet. Someone who is fighting something off might feel swollen glands, a post-nasal drip, or have mild congestion. This person might choose to skip exercising, take vitamin C pills or drink orange juice, and stock up on soup to try and heal their body preemptively.

What is the origin of the phrase under the weather?

According to Grammar Monster and Phrases, the term under the weather came from the old days of sailing ships and other maritime sources. If a sailor was feeling sick from the rough seas, they would be sent below deck to protect them from the weather. Therefore, they were literally under the weather. 

The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson states that Ik Marvel, the pen name of Donald Grant Mitchell, was the first person to use the term under the weather in his book Reveries of a Bachelor. The book was published in 1850. 

According to Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions by Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey, the phrase originally meant to feel seasick, or sick because of the bad weather. The term was initially stated as “under the weather boy,” which meant that prospects were grim, as the weather bow is where rotten weather is seen brewing.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the term under the weather?

There are many different synonymous phrases one can use to describe feeling under the weather. One might choose to use one of these phrases if they want to avoid repeating themselves, or if they are looking to expand their vocabulary. These are listed below from Thesaurus.

  • Not feeling well
  • Ailing
  • Ill
  • Sick
  • Sickly
  • Bedridden
  • Out of sorts
  • Unhealthy
  • Below par
  • Run-down
  • Unless
  • Diseased
  • Debilitated
  • Down
  • Frail
  • Infected
  • Invalid
  • Indisposed
  • In poor health
  • Laid-up
  • Infirm
  • Lousy
  • Not so hot
  • Queasy
  • Sick as a dog
  • On medication
  • Weak
  • Feeble
  • Feverish
  • Green

The opposite of feeling under the weather isn’t over the weather it’s healthy. Below is a list of antonyms for under the weather, also from Thesaurus.

  • Active
  • In the pink
  • Lusty
  • Muscular
  • Physically fit
  • Fresh
  • Rosy-cheeked
  • Hardy
  • Safe and sound
  • Hale
  • Sound
  • Athletic
  • Vigorous
  • Able-bodied
  • Full of life
  • Husky
  • Well
  • In good shape
  • Stout
  • Whole
  • Robust
  • In fine feather
  • Healthful
  • Blooming
  • Bright-eyed
  • Strong
  • Tough
  • Potent
  • Hearty
  • Lively
  • Normal
  • Trim
  • Unimpaired
  • Virile
  • In good condition
  • Healthy
  • Flourishing
  • In fine fettle
  • Sturdy
  • All right
  • Firm
  • Fit
  • Restored
  • Bushy-tailed
  • Chipper

How can the term under the weather be used in a sentence?

The American English vocabulary phrase under the weather can be used in a variety of different ways. It is considered a polite phrase, so one does not need to worry about it being too casual for a professional or formal circumstance. Below are a couple of examples of ways in which one can use under the weather in conversation. 

In this first example, Kevin calls in sick to his job at a grocery store. His manager, Tiffany, answers the phone.

Kevin: Hey Tiffany, I’m so sorry for the last minute notice. I can’t come in today. I was throwing up all last night, and I’m still feeling under the weather today. I thought it would go away, but it didn’t.

Tiffany: Don’t apologize! Stay home and feel better. That’s what sick days are for. WE’ll get someone to cover for you. Get some rest!

Kevin: Thanks Tiffany.

In the next example, Morgan is considering going to the doctor and is discussing her symptoms with her roommate Haley.

Morgan: I dunno, I just feel like I have the chills and a runny nose and I’m super tired. I just can’t shake it. I’ve felt this way since I got caught in that snowstorm.

Haley: This is why we don’t wear heels in a New York winter. Let’s get you to urgent care – rather safe than sorry.

Morgan: You’re right.

Overall, the term under the weather means that someone is feeling slightly sick or ill. One can use this phrase to describe that they feel the beginnings of a cold or virus coming on and need to take it easy, or as an excuse for getting out of work or other commitments. Symptoms of feeling under the weather could include congestion, a sore throat, swollen glands, or a stomachache, amongst others.

Sources:

  1. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/under-the-weather
  2. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/under-the-weather
  3. https://tofluency.com/sick-vs-ill/
  4. https://www.grammar-monster.com/sayings_proverbs/under_the_weather.htm#:~:text=What%20Is%20the%20Origin%20of,protect%20him%20from%20the%20weather.
  5. https://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/28/messages/325.html
  6. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/healthy
  7. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/under%20the%20weather