While there’s the technical way a weatherman may describe the forecast on TV, English speakers around the globe have adopted their own phrases for what they see outside their windows. The next time you’re making small talk with a coworker, here are some classic weather-related expressions to sprinkle into the conversation.

Raining cats and dogs

This Victorian-era expression is used to describe a heavy downpour, but its origin is just as cloudy as the sky before a storm. One possible (but grim) theory relates to poor sewer drainage surfacing the corpses of dogs and cats when water overflowed, giving the impression of pets that had fallen from the sky. If that one makes you shiver, rest assured there are plenty of other theories, like an evolution of the archaic French word for waterfall, “catadupe.”

The dead of winter

When the days are shortest and the temperatures are coldest, you’re right in the dead of winter. Considering winter is a time when the earth quite literally stops growing, with most vegetation dead, this expression from the 1600s makes perfect sense. “In the dead of,” in general, refers to any time that is silent or still, such as, “In the dead of the night.”

Hot as Hades

When the temperature soars, you may describe the weather as hot as hell, or hot as fire. But those two expressions are spinoffs of “hot as Hades.” Hades was the Ancient Greek underworld, as they didn’t have concepts of heaven or hell. Eventually Hades and hell were conflated to mean the same thing, applying a burning heat to the formerly temperature-free Hades.

Blowing dogs off chains

A blustery, windy day may be described in this way — the idea being that even a four-legged friend could get swept away with all that gusty air. This term hails from Australia and is still in use among sailors used to dealing with rough winds.

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