Weather: Forget Eskimo snow - here are 139 Hawaiian rain words

A hurricane has been raging off the coast of America; a typhoon is causing havoc in Japan; the first autumn breezes are wafting through the north of England. Where does all this wind come from?

Following a piece last week on "raining cats and dogs" and other strange expressions for heavy rain, several readers have written from Wales to tell us about Mae hi'n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn - raining old women and walking sticks. R Huw Oakley adds the Spanish expression llover a cntaros - "raining by the pitcher-full". He also asks: "If it is true that the Eskimos have the greatest number of words for snow and ice, who are the world champions where rain is concerned?"

Well, Mr Oakley, I am delighted you asked that, because it provides another excuse to mention a book that I carry around with me at all times: Harold Winfield Kent's Treasury of Hawaiian Words in One Hundred and One Categories, which shows that Hawaiian is at least a major contender for the world championship in rain words.

Two of Mr Kent's 101 categories are relevant to the topic, "Rains: Names" and "Rains: Glossary", the former listing rains whose names "make a specific reference to their well-known characteristics, such as topographical area or an association with a particular kind of cloud or wind", and the latter describing "different kinds of rains and a few terms dealing with mist". There are 52 distinct items in the first list and 87 in the second.

As with Eskimo snow, however, many of the words are variations on a single theme. For example, the glossary section includes the basic word noe (mist or fine rain) as well as noe kolo (small fine rain of the mountains), noenoe (fine mist, fog or rain) and noe 'ula (red-eyed from going out in the rain).

Then there is paka (raindrops), pakaku (rain falling in large drops), pakapaka (a heavy shower of large raindrops or the spattering noise that such drops make on a hollow or dry substance), paka ua (raindrops making a noise as they spatter on dry leaves), paki'o (showery rain), and paki'oki'o (to rain in short showers and often). And who is to say whether pipinoke (to rain continuously) has the same root as paka or not?

If you wish to boost the numbers, you could even consider kilikili noe and kilikili oe, both of which are listed as meaning "fine, misty rain" as separate words, though clearly the subtle distinction between then eluded Mr Kent.

One does get the feeling, however, that the Hawaiians sometimes go a little too far in their attempts to distinguish one rain from another. It is all very well having nahua for the "fine rain that accompanies the north-east trade winds along the northern part of Maui", but do we really need anything so specific as ua-pa'u-pili (the rain that moistens the pili grass at Lahaina)?

Oddly enough, though, they do not seem to have an expression for "raining cats and dogs", or even Welsh women and walking sticks - unless you count he ua lanipali, which means a very heavy shower. Its literal meaning, however, is "shower reaching to heaven".

Suggested Topics
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial