第341課: Rain 「雨」の語源や雨に関する用語
Rain, or as it is called in Japanese, /ame/ 雨 is formed from liquid droplets of water that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor that then fall from the sky under gravity. It has been the source of worship and reverence from cultures across the world due to both its nurturing and destructive powers.
Wherever you are in the world, the air contains some amount of water vapor. This water vapor may originate from evaporation (蒸発) off the oceans (海洋), lakes (湖), or the ground (地面) or it may be provided by transpiration (蒸散) from plants (植物). Rain falls from the sky out of clouds (雲), but rain is also not the only form of precipitation. Furthermore, the process of water going from liquid to gas to liquid/solid and so on creates a cycle known as the “water cycle.”
Though words associated with rain such as 雨 (rain), 雨雲 (raincloud), 雷雨 (thunderstorm), etc. may seem simple, the Japanese language is rich with rain-related words. Just the words to describe the various of aspects of precipitation thus far requires an extensive knowledge of weather vocabulary, much of which you would naturally learn from watching weather reports (天気予報).
On other planets, what falls as “rain” may not be made of water, but in this discussion, we’ll mostly be talking about the H2O that falls out of our sky.
The Kanji for Rain 「雨」という漢字の起源
The Kanji for “rain,” despite its gradual change in form over the millennia, is still recognizable as a pictograph (象形文字) even in its printed style (楷書体) used today.
In oracle bone text (甲骨文) from ancient China, 雨 appeared like the far left with a line representing a cloud and the raindrops represented by multiple slashes beneath. Once Chinese bronze inscriptions (金文) appear, the Kanji begins to take its modern squarish shape, and its appearance since small seal script (小篆) which arose during China’s Warring States Period (ca. 247-221 BC) has remained consistent.
The ON reading for 雨 has remained ウ throughout its existence in Japanese, being both the Wu reading (呉音) and the Han reading (漢音). As for its KUN reading, the choice between あめ, あま-, and -さめ is determined by the rules of native compound word formation (see link). Below are some useful words created with these readings.
|雨季（うき）||Rainy season||秋雨（あきさめ）||Autumn rain|
|雨露（うろ）||Rain and dew||雨降（あめふ）り||Rainfall|
|雨中（うちゅう）||In the rain||雨脚（あまあし）||Passing shower|
|雨天（うてん）||Rainy weather||雨風（あめかぜ）||Rain and wind|
|雨林（うりん）||Rain forest||雨空（あまぞら）||Rainy sky|
|雨後（うご）||After rain||雨靴（あまぐつ）||Waterproof shoes|
|雨水（うすい）||Yushui (solar term)||雨合羽（あまがっぱ）||Raincoat|
|雨量（うりょう）||Amount of rainfall||雨垂（あまだ）れ||Raindrop|
|雨氷（うひょう）||Freezing rain||雨音（あまおと）||Sound of rainfall|
|雨域（ういき）||Rainy region||雨模様（あめもよう）||Signs of rain|
|雨部（うぶ）||Rain radical||雨樋（あまどい）||Rain gutter|
|暴雨（ぼうう）||Torrential rain||雨上（あめあ）がり||Rain letup|
|降雨（こうう）||Rainfall||雨続（あめつづ）き||Long spell of rain|
|山雨（さんう）||Rain in the mountains||雨戸（あまど）||Sliding storm shutter|
|白雨（はくう）||Rain shower||雨具（あまぐ）||Rain gear|
|時雨（じう）||Seasonal rain||雨乞（あまご）い||Praying for rain|
|雨気（うき）||Threatening to rain||雨間（あまあい）||Break in the rain|
※雨季 refers to the rainiest portion of the year, which although that translates to “rainy season,” this word itself is not limited to any region’s particular rainy season. The rainy season in Japan is still known as 梅雨, although this word may also be read with its ON readings as バイウ, especially in compounds such as 梅雨前線 (seasonal rain front).
※雨露 may be read as ウロ or あめつゆ. The former is restricted to the written language whereas the latter is used in the spoken language.
※雨水, when used to mean “rainwater,” is read as あまみず in the spoken language.
※Many words created with the ON reading ウ are literally in nature such as 白雨, which although directly means “rain which appears white,” is a literary euphemism for “rain shower,” which would be typically expressed with more common words in the spoken language like 俄雨（にわかあめ）or 夕立（ゆうだち）.
※When read as じう, 時雨 is a rare literary word meaning “read when falls at a good time.” However, these same Kanji are usually read exceptionally as しぐれ, which is a set phrase meaning “rain shower” during late autumn to early winter. しぐれ comes from the verb 時雨（しぐ）れる, which carries the verbal meaning of a such a shower falling.
※雨模様 may alternatively be read as あまもよう. Though 模様 is a Sino-Japanese word, in this expression もよう is likely a corruption of 催（もよ）い as 雨催（あまもよ）い happens to be an older form of the phrase. Other synonyms to these expressions include 雨気（ウキ・あまけ）and 雨気色（あまげしき）.
Not only is important as a standalone Kanji, but it is also used as a radical (部首) in a myriad of other Kanji related to weather phenomena. Its colloquial radical name is 雨冠（あめかんむり）, but its technical radical name is 雨部 as seen in the prior chart. This radical has 8 strokes (8画) and is the 173rd traditional radical in the Kangxi Dictionary (康煕字典・こうきじてん).
※There are two words for “mist”: 霧（きり） and 靄（もや）. The former is used to refer to “mist” with visibility (視程) of 1 km or less, whereas the latter refers to “mist” with visibility greater than 1 km.
Forms of Precipitation 降水の種類
The generic word for precipitation is 降水, which is a Sino-Japanese compound literally meaning “falling water.” Indeed, precipitation in a broad definition is water vapor (水蒸気) which condenses (凝結) into either liquid (液体) or solid (固体) form and then falls (落下) down due to gravity (重力).
There are various morphologies (形態) of precipitation that are distinguished in Japanese meteorological terminology. The chart below lists these terms as well as other important vocabulary related to precipitation.
|雨（あめ）||Precipitation that falls in a liquid state (液体). Rain can be more narrowly defined by the size of its raindrops (雨粒).|
|霧雨（きりさめ）||Translated as “drizzle,” this term refers to raindrops whose diameter is 0.5 mm or smaller.|
|雨氷（うひょう）||Known as “freezing rain” in English, there are two kinds distinguished based on raindrop size: 着氷性の雨 (‘freezing’ rain) and 着氷性の霧雨 (‘freezing’ drizzle). Either form becomes solid upon landing on the ground.|
|霙（みぞれ）||“Sleet” is defined as precipitation that is both liquid and solid.|
|雪（ゆき）||“Snow” is composed of soft crystals (結晶).|
|霧雪（きりゆき）||When snow particles (雪粒) are smaller than 1 mm.|
|雹（ひょう）||“Hail” defined by 雹 is limited to hailballs 5 mm or larger.|
|霰（あられ）||Hailballs smaller than 5 mm are defined by 霰, but there are three kinds: 氷霰 (transculent hail), 雪霰 (opaque hail), and 凍雨 (ice pellets).|
|細氷（さいひょう）||“Diamond dust,” also known by its English name as ダイヤモンドダスト. This is hail-like precipitation formed by water vapor sublimating (昇華). This is similar in nature to ice fog (氷霧), but “fog,” even when frozen, is suspended water vapor in the air that is not falling down as “precipitation.”|
The Many Words for “Precipitation”
Although translating 降水 as “precipitation” is accurate, it can be understood in two different ways. It can either refer to the phenomenon of precipitation falling to the surface, or it can refer to precipitation that has fallen. In the latter case, it would be colloquially understood a “rainfall,” but the macro interpretation which encompasses any form of precipitation is what is used in any meteorological context. For instance, 降水確率 (chance of precipitation) on your phone doesn’t just refer to rain.
In more technical weather reports, the Kanji 水 will be switched out for the Kanji of the precipitation being particularly referenced. Thus, “rainfall” is 降雨（こうう）, “snowfall” is 降雪（こうせつ）, and “hailfall” is either 降雹（こうひょう） or 降霰（こうさん） depending on the size of the hail (see above for size differentiation).
In the spoken language, 降水, 降雨, and 降雪 are fairly common as they’re often used by weather reporters. However, 降雹 is rarely heard and 降霰 would only be understood in the written language. To combat this, the native phrasings of these words are used in everyday conversation instead.
Also, if one’s goal is to use “precipitation” in the sense of “amount of…that fell,” you’ll need to add 量, whether you’re using formal Sino-Japanese vocabulary or colloquial native vocabulary. As for the Sino-Japanese vocabulary, those compounds can be understood in the same two ways as 降水. Thus, 降雪 may refer to the act of snow falling or it can refer to snowfall, and to emphasize “amount,” you just add 量.
|降水 Precipitation/fallingPrecipitation降水量 Amount of precipitation||①雨や雪などが降ること。②降った水分|
|降雨 Rain falling/Rainfall降雨量 Amount of rainfall||①雨降り・雨が降ること ②降る雨|
|降雪 Snow falling/Snowfall降雪量 Amount of snowfall||①雪が降ること②降った雪（の量）|
|降雹 (Big) hail falling/(Big) hailfall降雹量 Amount of (big) hailfall||①雹が降ること②降った雹の量|
|降霰 (Small) hail falling/(small) hailfall降霰量 Amount of (small) hailfall||①霰が降ること②降った霰の量|
|降霜 Frost falling/frostfall降霜量 Amount of frostfall||①霜が【降る・降りる】こと②【降った・降りた】霜の量|
※Though there are Sino-Japanese morphemes present in the second column as well, the percentage is drastically different.
※Snowfall is also talked about in terms of how much snow accumulates on the ground, which may not be the same amount of snow which falls from the sky. The “accumulation of snow” is 積雪（せきせつ） and the “amount of accumulated snow” is 積雪量. Colloquially, these words may be replaced with 雪が積もること and 積もった雪の量 respectively.
※As can be seen from it having been added to this second chart, “frost” may also be thought as precipitation as deposits of ice crystals which form directly from water in its gas state may “fall,” but frost may also occur from water vapor that is already on some surface. 霜’s readings are as follows: ソウ (ON) and しも (KUN).
The Water Cycle on Earth 地球上の水循環
On Earth (地球), the water cycle (水循環)is driven by solar energy (太陽エネルギー) in a continuous cycle of water changing between its solid phase (固相), liquid phase (液相), and gas phase (気相). The general flow of the water cycle is evaporation/transpiration (蒸発散) → condensation (凝結) → cloud formation (雲の形成) → precipitation (降水) → discharge (流出). Below are the various phenomena that occur in the water cycle.
|蒸発（じょうはつ）||Evaporation: When water on the surface transforms (変化) into water vapor.|
|蒸散（じょうさん）||Transpiration: Evaporation which happens through plants.|
|凝結（ぎょうけつ）||Condensation: The process of water vapor in the sky forming clouds/mist while phase changing （相転移）to a liquid state. Though usually not in large quantity, condensation may sometimes be immediately after used by living organisms or permeate the ground, which is known as 結露 (dew sticking).|
|凝固（ぎょうこ）||Solidification: Under a low-temperature environment, cold rain may freeze (凍結) thus phase changing to a solid state–凝固. Though usually not in large quantity,|
|昇華（しょうか）||Sublimation: The process of either gas turning into a solid or solid turning into a gas without the intermediate liquid state. Sublimation from solid to gas frequently occurs with glaciers (氷河), and sublimation from gas to solid happens with frost (霜).|
|移流（いりゅう）||Advection: Regardless of phase, this is the phenomenon of water moving through the atmosphere.|
|降水（こうすい）||Precipitation: Water, snow, or the like which have formed clouds– rain (雨雲), snow (雪雲)–and showers (降り注ぐ).|
|地表流（ちひょうりゅう）||Surface flow: The phenomenon of water following from high to low altitude.|
|積雪（せきせつ）||Snow accumulation: In cold regions (寒冷地), snow doesn’t melt.|
|堆積 （たいせき）||Accumulation: Snow accumulates, and when permanent snow (万年雪) compacts (固結), glaciers are formed.|
|浸透（しんとう）||Percolation: The phenomenon of water seaking into the ground.|
|涵養（かんよう）||(Groundwater) recharge: The phenomenon of new ground water (地下水) being supplied (供給) to an aquifer (帯水層).|
|融雪（ゆうせつ）||Melting of snow: The phenomenon of snow melting, known colloquially as 雪解け.|
|地下流（ちかりゅう）||Underflow: Streams of water that are underground.|
Types of Clouds 雲の種類
The greatest contributor to the formation (生成) of clouds is the existence of updrafts (上昇気流). When air masses (空気塊) contains water vapor carried up higher into the atmosphere (大気) expand (膨張) due to drop (低下) in air pressure (空気圧) and then adiabatically cool (断熱冷却), the result is that humidity (湿度) rises (上昇) as the amount (量) of water vapor doesn’t change.
Though the dew point (露点温度) will change according to air temperature (気温) and the amount of water vapor prior to being lifted upward, when the dew point is exceeded, that results in supersaturated vapor (過飽和蒸気). When normal air containing particulates (微粒子) reaches a supersaturation degree (過飽和度) of 1%, the condensation process (凝結過程) begins in which water vapor continues to coalesce into cloud condensation nuclei (雲粒), which in turn produce cloud droplets (雲核), whether they be formed with water vapor that liquifies (液化) or freezes (凝固).
Now that we’ve gone over a little bit about how clouds are formed, let’s look at the Japanese names for all the kinds of clouds one can find in the sky.
|巻雲・絹雲（けんうん）||筋雲（すじぐも）|| Cirrus cloud|
Height: 5,000~13,000 m
|巻積雲（けんせきうん）||鱗雲（うろこぐも）鯖雲（さばぐも）|| Cirrocumulus cloud|
Height: 5,000~13,000 m
|巻層雲（けんそううん）||薄雲（うすぐも）|| Cirrostratus cloud/thin cloud|
Height: 5,000~13,000 m
|高積雲（こうせつうん）||羊雲（ひつじぐも）|| Altocumulus cloud|
Height: 2,000~7,000 m
Height: 2,000~7,000 m
|乱層雲（らんそううん）||雨雲（あまぐも）雪雲（ゆきぐも）|| Nimbostratus cloud: responsible for what are colloquially known as “rain clouds” and “snow clouds.” |
|層積雲（そうせきうん）||畝雲（うねぐも）嵩張り雲（かさばりぐも） 曇雲（くもりぐも）|| Stratocumulus cloud|
Height: Above ground~2,000 m
|層雲（そううん）||霧雲（きりぐも）|| Stratus cloud/fog-like cloud|
Height: Above ground~1,000 m
Precipitation: Rarely drizzle (霧雨)
|積雲（せきうん）||綿雲（わたぐも）|| Cumulus cloud/fleecy clouds|
Height: 500~2,000 m
| Cumolonimbus cloud/thunderhead|
Height: Above ground~12,000 m
※In addition to the ‘kinds’ of clouds listed above, there are also other nonacademic descriptions of clouds such as 笠雲 (cap cloud) and 吊るし雲 (roll/rotor cloud).
How Rain Falls 雨の降り方
Rain falls from the sky in the form of raindrops. Although we’ve learned about the meteorological difference between the kinds of “rain” based on the diameter and temperature/freezing nature of rain, we have yet to actually go over the words for “raindrop” aside from the generic word 雨粒 and a brief mention of 雨垂れ. In total, there are four words to distinguish.
・雨粒（あまつぶ）: Refers to each individual droplet of rain that falls from the sky.
・雨滴（うてき）: A literary word which typically refers to large drops of rain (大粒の雨) falling from the sky.
・雨垂れ・ 霤（あまだれ）: Refers specifically to rain following from the eaves (軒) of buildings.
・滴・雫（しずく）: Literally, “drop of water,” when used in reference to rain, it has a poetic sound to it.
※The antonym of 大粒 (large drop) is 小粒 (small drop).
Rain is quantified for meteorological agencies such as the 気象庁 of Japan by the amount (雨量) that falls over specific periods of time. Rain meters (雨量計) are placed throughout the country to record rainfall accurately, and in Japan, totals are shown in millimeters–the counter being ミリ（メートル）. Rain intensity (雨の強さ) is typically given by the hour, but when precipitation within a short period of time is too intense, rainfall amounts may be given in increments of 10 minutes to emphasize the severity of the downpour (土砂降り).
|Category||Rainfall per Hour||Description|
|小雨（こさめ）||1mm or less||Continued rainfall of 1 mm or less over several hours.|
|弱い雨||3 mm or less||Temporary weak rainfall.|
|やや強い雨||10~20 mm||Rain is strong enough that one can’t hear conversation due to the noise of the rain.|
|強い雨||20~30 mm||You may get soaked even while under an umbrella. Visibility while driving is limited as windshield wipers (ワイパー) become ineffective.|
|激しい雨||30~50 mm||Streets turn into streams, breaks become ineffective for automobiles resulting in hydroplaining (ハイドロプレーニング現象). Threat of landslide (崖崩れ) is high. Evacuation is advised.|
|非常に激しい雨||50~80 mm||Outside where it’s raining, it appears as if waterfalls (滝) are cascading from the clouds. Visibility (視界) is heavily restricted and driving (運転) is dangerous. Disaster (災害) will occur. Water may shoot out of manholes (マンホール), and the threat of debris flow (土石流) is high.|
|猛烈な雨||80mm +||Rain is so intense it instills fear (恐怖) in those experiencing it. Large-scale (大規模) disaster is inevitible. Evacuate (避難) immediately.|
※At first glance, 少雨（しょうう）, 強雨（きょうう）, and 弱雨（じゃくう） are literary equivalents of 小雨, 強い雨, and 弱い雨 respectively. Although they are completely synonymous with their respective counterparts, these ‘literary’ words are very rare and only seen in contexts in which a writer is trying to write more concisely. However, for official meteorological reports, only 小雨, 強い雨, and 弱い雨 are used as being understood clearly by the public is of utmost importance. On the other hand, 強雨 is starting to become more common thanks to the relatively newly coined phrase 短時間強雨, which is equivalent to “short-span heavy rain.”
※Anything 強い雨 or greater may also be colloquially described as 大雨（おおあめ）. Whenever this word is used in meteorological reports, it is further described as being 集中豪雨（しゅうちゅうごうう） or 局地的大雨（きょくちてきおおあめ）–see below.
※猛烈な雨 may also be referred to as 豪雨 in weather reports–see below.
※雨強し: This expression refers to heavy rainfall, which in meteorology would be rain greater than 15 mm an hour. However, the meteorological definition of 強い雨 is 20-30 mm.
When referring to rain becoming either of the states above, alternative expressions may be found utilizing ～降（ぶ）りになる.
|小降りになる||Synonymous with 小雨になる|
|本（ほん）降りになる||Rain which doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop, it is most appropriate with やや強い雨.|
|土砂降りになる||Translated as “downpair,” it refers to rainfall that is 強い雨 or greater. It is synonymous with ざあざあ降り.|
|大降りになる||Synonymous with 大雨になる.|
|横降りになる||“Driving rain,” this expression may also be used in reference to snow.|
|吹き降りになる||Heavy rain accompanied with strong wind, it is often used synonymously with 横降り, but there is heavier emphasis on the intensity of the wind.|
Other Expressions for Rain Intensity 雨の強さによる表現
The terms above are used as the standard expressions for rain intensity in weather reports made in Japan, but there is an array of terminology used colloquially to describe the nature of rainfall.
|霧雨（きりさめ）||Seldom read as きりあめ, it is colloquially understood as rain whose drops are as thin as mist.|
|小糠雨（こぬかあめ）||Seldom simply seen as 糠雨, this is rain which rains so silently it’s as if the raindrops are as thin as rice bran (糠).|
|細雨（さいう）||Used only as a literary word, it describes weak, thin rain which falls gently.|
|時雨（しぐれ）||Rather weak rain which starts and stops repetively, a feature of rainstorms in large parts of Japan during late fall and early winter. Imagine it raining all of a sudden, and no sooner have you gotten out your umbrella than the sky is back to being blue again. Such showers which fall in the morning are called 朝時雨（あさしぐれ）, those which fall in the evening are called 夕時雨（ゆうしぐれ）, and those which fall at night are called 小夜時雨（さよしぐれ）.|
|俄雨（にわかあめ）||This is the generic word for “rainshower,” but as sudden as the rain starts and ends, the rain itself is rather strong.|
|肘笠雨（ひじかさあめ）||A rainshower which is sudden to the point you have no choice but to use your elbows to try to keep your head dry.|
|驟雨（しゅうう）||A “sudden shower” with may experience sudden variation in rain intensity, this word is a rather literary one but rather commonly used in literature.|
|夕立（ゆうだち）||Heavy rain accompanied with thunder during summer for short durations.|
|地雨（じあめ）||Rather weak but consistent rain falling evenly across a large area.|
|村雨（むらさめ）||Also alternatively spelled as 叢雨, this word describes rain which stops as soon as it starts.|
|村時雨（むらしぐれ）||Heavy passing rain.|
|片時雨（かたしぐれ）||Rain that falls in the same spot for a decent amount of time.|
|横時雨（よこしぐれ）||Rain falling slanted but also consistently.|
|涙雨（なみだあめ）||Small amount of rain which is reminiscent of tears dropping.|
|天気雨（てんきあめ）||“Sun shower,” rain which falls when the sun is out. Alternative phrases for this include 日照雨（ひでりあめ） and 狐（きつね）の嫁入（よめい）り.|
|微雨（びう）||Small amount of which falls so small that no sooner has it stopped than you’re already dry.|
|急雨（きゅうう）||A literary varient of the colloquial expression 急な雨 which has the same meaning of “sudden rain.”|
|通り雨（とおりあめ）||“Passing rain,” this word only describes how the rain is passing by and may be used to refer to such rain of varying intensity. This may also be referred to by the word 雨脚（あまあし）, although this word may also refer to rain pouring down in streaks.|
|スコール||The transliteration of “squal,” this word most accurately describes tropical rain which is both incredibly intense but also short in duration.|
|大雨||This word is defined as rain exceeding 50 mm within an hour or when the soil water index (土壌雨量指数) is 115 or greater.|
|局地的大雨||Heavy rain brought by a single cumulonimbus cloud which produces several dozen mm of rain with the span of just as many minutes.|
|集中豪雨||Severe rain produced by a series of cumulonimbus clouds which may unleash hundreds of mm of rain.|
|豪雨（ごうう）||Rain that is severe enough to cause major disaster. Although it is used colloquially to refer to severe rainstorms, when the term is used in a metereological setting, major damage is always implied.|
|雷雨（らいう）||“Thunderstorm,” intense rain that is accompanied with thunder.|
|風雨（ふうう）||Intense rain accompanied with heavy wind.|
|暴風雨（ぼうふうう）||Heavy wind implied by this word is typically of typhoon intensity. However, 暴風雨 may sometimes be used colloquially as a more technical meanings of describing storms (嵐).|
|長雨（ながあめ）||Rain which continues on for days.|
|霖（ながめ）||The shortened form of 長雨, this word form is almost entirely limited to the written language.|
|霖雨（りんう）||The rare, literary Sino-Japanese equivalent of 長雨.|
|淫雨（いんう）||A literary word which describes rain resembling the rainy season which doesn’t seem like it’ll stop.|
|ゲリラ豪雨||Also known just as ゲリラ雨（あめ）, this refers to sudden heavy rain that only falls in a specific area for a short amount of time.|
|ゲリラ雷雨||This is equivalent to “sudden torrential thunderstorm.”|
In addition to the slew of words we just covered regarding rain intensity, Japanese is also full of words which describe rain in terms of season.
|春雨（はるさめ）||Alternatively called 花散らしの雨, this word refers to gentle spring rain. It may rarely be read as シュンウ in literature. 春の雨 is synonyous with 春雨, but the former is more generic than the latter.|
|五月雨（さみだれ）||This word once referred to the rainy season, but in modern times it refers to rain which falls in May. The ‘sunny’ periods of May are referred to as 五月晴（さつきば）れ. Etymologically, the /sa/ morpheme is the same /sa/ found in words like 皐月 (5th month of the lunar calendar) and 早苗 (rice seedling), and /midare/ is a combination of /mi/ meaning water and /dare/ from the verb 垂れる (to drip).|
|秋雨（あきさめ）||Pleasant autumn rain, this word especially refers to long spells of rain (長雨) that occur from September to October. Autumn rain fronts (秋雨前線) are characteristic of typhoon season (台風シーズン). This word may rarely be read as シュウウ in literature, but this is typically avoided unless intential conflation with 驟雨 is meant. Although 秋の雨 is more or less synonymous, this expression simply refers to rain in autumn and does not carry the same exact nuancing.|
|時雨 itself refers to on-and-off storms throughout late fall and early winter, but if you wish to simply refer to such storms in ‘autumn’ or ‘winter’ specifically, simply add 秋 or 冬 respectively at the start of the expression as seen to the left.|
|秋入梅（あきついり）||Alternatively spelled as 秋黴雨, the prolonged rain spell that occurs in Japan during autumn is often referred to as a rainy season in its own right. The start of this weather phenomenon is known as あきついり and the /tsuiri/ is a contraction of 梅雨入り (entering rainy season).|
|液雨（えきう）||This rare, literary word refers specifically to 時雨 that occurs from the solar term 立冬（りっとう） to the solar term 小雪（しょうせつ）.|
|寒九（かんく）の雨||The ninth day of rain since the start of the solar term 小寒（しょうかん）, which is thought to be a sign of good harvest.|
|寒（かん）の雨||Rain which falls from the solar term 大寒（だいかん）to the solar term 節分（せつぶん）.|
|氷雨・ 霈（ひさめ）||Cold rain which falls in winter, it may errenously also refer to hail.|
|夏雨（かう）||Unlike 秋雨 and 春雨, there is no /natsusame/ in Japanese. Instead, 夏の雨 is used for “summer rain.” The lack of a similar morpheme for rain during summer is likely due to rain being less common during those months in Japan. Although the rare, literary word 夏雨（かう） does exist, it is hardly used even in literature.|
|冬雨（とうう）||Unlike 秋雨 and 春雨, there is no /fuyusame/ in Japanese. Instead, 冬の雨 is used for “winter rain.” The lack of a similar morpheme for rain during winter is likely due to rain being less common during those months in Japan. Although the rare, literary word 冬雨（とうう） does exist, it is hardly used even in literature.|
Literary “Rain” Words 「雨」にまつわる描写的な文章語
Though it may feel like we have already gone over enough words related to rain, the world of Japanese literature provides us even more descriptive rain-related words to brighten up a passage. Though none of the words below are particularly common, their meanings should be more than evident so long as you have a strong knowledge of Kanji and can recognize the ON readings of said characters.
|私雨（わたくしあめ）||Rain that seems to only fall on a certain place, or seemingly falling for a certain person’s benefit.|
|外待雨（ほまちあめ）||Similar to above, this phrase refers to rain that seems to be falling to only enrich a limited set of people in a particular area.|
|翠雨（すいう）||Rain which falls on fresh leaves.|
|緑雨（りょくう）||Rain which falls on the new foliage of spring.|
|麦雨（ばくう）||Rain which falls when barley matures, which is usually around May. Thus, this word is more or less synonymous with 五月雨.|
|甘雨（かんう）||The ‘sweet’ rain which replenishes the life of foliage.|
|瑞雨（ずいう）||Good-fortune rain which falls just in time to aid the growth of grain.|
|慈雨（じう）||Rain that falls at much needed timing to replenish foliage.|
|白雨（はくう）||Sudden shower with the rain itself appearing white.|
|煙雨（えんう）||Rain which falls like smoke, this would colloquially just be called 煙るように降る雨. This form of rain will most likely be referred to as 霧雨.|
|陰雨（いんう）||“Gloomy rain,” this would be expressed in the spoken language as 陰気な雨.|
|天泣（てんきゅう）||Rain which falls from the sky though no clouds can be seen overhead. This phenomenon can sometimes be explained by rain from afar being carried by the wind, or when the clouds themselves are moving at a speed faster than the time it takes for the rain to reach the ground, making it appear as if the clouds had disappeared, leaving the impression that the heavens are crying.|
|恵雨（けいう）||Pleasant, welcome rain which falls to aid crops when needed most.|
|十雨（じゅうう）||Refreshing rain which falls once in ten days, this is usually seen in the expanded four-character idioms 十風五雨（じっぷうごう）(heavy wind once in ten days, rain once in five days) and 五風十雨（ごふうじゅうう）(heavy wind once in ten days, rain once in ten days), which have similar meaning.|
|晴雨（せいう）||A shortened expression to refer to both “clear and rainy” weather.|
|法雨（ほうう）||Also known as 法（のり）の雨, this expression is an analogy to how the grace of the Buddha saving the lives of manking is like how rain restores all life.|
|快雨（かいう）||Rain which falls with force on a hot summer day which refreshes everyone.|
|祈雨（きう）||Rare, literary word which is synonymous to 雨乞い (praying for rain).|
|止雨（しう）||Rare, literary Sino-Japanese equivalent of 雨上がり (the end to rain).|
|樹雨（きさめ）||Water droplets that fall off leaves and branches, being akin to rain.|
|涼雨（りょうう）||“Cool rain,” this would be expressed colloquially as 涼しい雨.|
|冷雨（れいう）||“Cold rain,” this would be colloquially expressed as 冷たい雨.|
|寒雨（かんう）||“Very cold rain” which falls in winter, this could be expressed colloquially as 寒々と降る冬の雨.|
|暖雨（だんう）||“Warm rain,” this would be expressed colloquially as 暖かい雨.|
|夜雨（やう）||“Rain during the night” may be simply expressed as 夜の雨, but 夜雨 may also be read as よさめ, which is significantly more common in literature than the Sino-Japanese equivalent ヤウ.|
The Rainy Season in Japan 日本の梅雨期
The word 雨季 refers to “rainy seasons” irrespectively of any particular region. As for the Japanese archipelago, the “rainy season” is known as 梅雨, read either as バイウ or つゆ, and lasts from May to July.
The reason for the use of the Kanji 梅 is due to the start of the rainy season being aligned with when plums ripened. This led to the coining of the phrase 入梅（にゅうばい） which refers to the “start” of the rainy season. This may also be expressed by 梅雨入（つゆいり）, which may be seen shortened to ついり. 梅雨, regardless of reading, may also be alternatively spelled by using the Kanji 黴 meaning “mold” instead as it, too, has the ON reading バイ, and the moist conditions of the rainy season are perfect for mold growth.
|菜種梅雨（なたねづゆ）||Rain spells which occur during late March to early April, this name derives from the period of time when rapeseed flowers (菜の花) are said to bloom. This period of rain during early spring may also be referred to as 春の長雨, 春霖（しゅんりん）, or 催花雨（さいかう）.|
|走り梅雨（づゆ）||Rain that’s “raising” toward rainy season, such rain fronts occur toward the end of May right before the main rain front of the rainy season. Synonymous expressions include 梅雨の走り and 前梅雨（まえづゆ）.|
|秋霖（しゅうりん）||Alternatively spelled as 秋林, this refers to the long spell of rain which occurs in autumn. Synonymous expressions include 秋雨（あきさめ） and 芒梅雨（すすきづゆ）.|
|山茶花梅雨（ささんかづゆ）||Rain that falls consistently during late November to early December.|
Set Phrases 「雨」を使った慣用句
If there are so many rain-related words in Japanese, it makes sense that there are even more set phrases–idioms, proverbs, four-character idioms, etc.–about rain. As we have already seen an extensive list of expressions, let’s leave off here with just a handful of expressions limited to those that are, in fact, well-known and common.
- 雨男（あめおとこ）: Man who brings rain with him wherever he goes.
- 雨女（あめおんな）: Woman who brings rain with her wherever she goes.
- 一雨ありそう（な）: To have the feeling that some sort of commission is about to happen.
- 雨垂れ石を穿（うが）つ: Literally “rain drops will drill through rock (over time),” this proverb refers to no matter how little one’s strength may be, if one perseveres, benefits will be reaped.
- 雨後（うご）の筍（たけのこ）: Literally “bamboo shoots after rain,” this is a euphemism for the same sort of thing appearing over and over again.
- 櫛風沐雨（しっぷうもくう）: Four-character idiom referring to undergoing hardships as if one were struggling through the wind and rain.
- 晴耕雨読（せいこううどく）: Four-character idiom referring to working in the field when the weather is fine but reading at home when the weather is rainy, this may also be extended to referring to living in quiet retirement in which one’s time is divided between work and intellectual hobbies.
- 遣（や）らずの雨: Rain which falls that is seemingly trying to prevent you from having people go home, or simply just preventing people to leave in general.
- 雨夜（あまよ）の月: Literally “moon on a rainy night,” this is a euphemism which relates to something which cannot be seen outside of imagination.
- 黒風白雨（こくふうはくう）: Four-character idiom referring to heavy, harsh wind with the strong, whitish rain of a sudden shower.
- 篠突く雨（しのつくあめ): Heavy rain that looks as if it is bamboo bound together and dropped.
- 雨降って地（じ）固まる: Literally interpreted as “the ground hardens after it rains,” this proverb speaks of how adversity strengthens a foundation. It is equivalent to the English proverb “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Other Kinds of “Rain” 水以外の「雨」
Though we have focused entirely on rain composed of just H20, there are other expressions that utilize 雨 which not (entirely) be actually rain made of water. Below are such expressions.
|人口降雨（じんこうこうう）||人口雨（じんこうう）for short, this means “artificial precipitation.”|
|放射能雨（ほうしゃのうう）||Colloquially known as 黒い雨, this means “radioactive rain.”|
|流星雨（りゅうせいう）||Also seen just as 星雨, this means “meteor shower.”|
|弾雨（だんう）||A shower of bullets.|
Counters for Rain 「雨」及び「滴」の助数詞
When counting “rain,” one must consider whether “rain” incidents or raindrops are being counted.
When counting incidents of rain, you may find the counters ～雨（あめ） and ～降り listed. Though 一雨（ひとあめ）and 一降（ひとふ）り do refer to individual instances of rain, these counters are not typically used beyond 1, and even if they were, native numbers would only be used for 1-2. Typically, instances of rain are counted with either ～度 or ～回.
As for counting “raindrops,” you may find the native counter ～粒（つぶ） used in figurative contexts for small numbers, but the use of native numbers typically stops by 4. Typically, to count raindrops, the counter ～滴（てき） is used with ～点 being a rare alternative.
Rain Onomatopoeia 「雨」の擬音語・擬態語
There is also an array of onomatopoeia used to describe how rain sounds. These onomatopoeias are heavily tied to how intense the rain is.
|しとしと（と）||The sound of rain quietly falling.|
|ぽとぽと（と）||The act/sound of rain falling in large drops.|
|ぼつぼつ（と）||The appearance of rain falling like little beads.|
|ぽつぽつ（と）||The act of rain starting to rain oh so little.|
|ざあざあ・ざんざん（と）||The sound/act of rain downpouring.|
|しょぼしょぼ（と）||The sound of drizzling rain.|
|ぱらぱら（と）||The sound of pattering rain.|
|ぐずぐず（と）||The act of rain being constant drizzle when the weather is unstable.|
|さっと||The act of rain suddnely falling while being accompanied with heavy wind.|
The Etymology of 雨 「雨」という単語の起源
The etymology of the native Japanese word /ame/ has been the subject of intense scrutiny. Why is there an intrusive /s/ in words such as 春雨? Also, where is there a number of onomatopoeia which share this /s/ sound? On top of this, although most native rain-related vocabulary utilizes some form of /ame/, the word 樋（とい） meaning “gutter” is a major exception to this norm.
These factors have driven some linguists to posture whether rain-related vocabulary from other language families might have contributed to the Japanese lexicon. Though such hypotheses require a major pinch of salt, let’s look at some potential ties that have been posited.
Since Old Japanese, there have been /s/ initial rain-related words such as そぼ降る (gentle rain falling), which would have been pronounced as /sopopuru/ at that time. Ignoring the actual quality of the o-vowels of the language at the time, derivative expressions such as どぼん (onomatopoeia for to “plop”) , ぽとぽと (onomatopoeia of large drops), ほとばしる (to gush out) and 潤（ほと）びる (to swell from absorbed moisture) abound with /s/ being exchanged out for /t/ or /h~p/.
Additionally, onomatopoeia such as ざぶざぶ (onomatopoeia for gushing), さばさば (candid), さっぱり (refreshing). ざぶん (splash/plop), etc. exist which don’t deviate as much as the previous examples. What’s more, the onomatopoeia in さめざめ (crying sorrowfully) is also likely related.
Drop the /s/ and have /b~p/ solidify to /m/ and then one gets /ame/. Thus, /ame/ can be viewed as just one of many derivatives of the initial onomatopoeic expressions. To some scholars, these word forms are thought to potentially have been borrowed from the Austronesian language family in which /sebu/ is a potential reconstruction of a rain-related word.
As for potential Korean influence, we would need evidence of rain-related words that ultimately don’t relate to the そほ morpheme found in Old Japanese, but considering how this morpheme would have already given rise to its derivatives including 雨 by that period, such influence would have to be far more ancient.
In Modern Korean, the word for “rain” is /pi/. The only rain-related word with this sound in Japanese is 樋. In Classical Japanese, it had the reading とひ, and the ひ would have been pronounced as /pi/ in Old Japanese. Even if this were viewed as an embedded morpheme, the word itself would be an amalgamation of a random borrowing into the language and not indicative of rain terminology being shared with Korean.
In Conclusion… 最後に…
In this lesson, we have thoroughly gone over all sorts of rain-related terminology that exists in Japanese from various angles. When you open up a new novel and encounter beautifully written weather descriptions, hopefully no word will be left as a mystery upon mastering the content shown here.