Weather and Climate – Vocabulary builder

Weather Vocabulary

The wet weather vocabulary

This wet weather vocabulary scale gets stronger from left to right.

shower (n)→heavy rain pour down (v)/ downpour (n)→torrential rain flood (n&v)

  • This rain won’t last long; it’s only a shower. [short period of rain]
  • There was quite heavy rain during the night. / It rained heavily during the night.
  • It was absolutely pouring down / There was a real downpour.
  • In Malaysia there is usually torrential rain most days, and the roads sometimes get flooded. /
  • There are sometimes floods on the roads.
  • The sky’s a bit overcast; I think it’s going to rain. [very cloudy]
  • We had a drought /draʊt/ last summer. It didn’t rain for six weeks.
showerheavy raindownpourtorrential rainflood

Rain Thesaurus

  • rain noun [uncountable] water that falls in small drops from clouds in the sky
    Ex: The rain has stopped at last. There had been heavy rain during the night.
  • drizzle noun [uncountable] light rain with very small drops of water
    Ex: A light drizzle was falling as I left the house.
  • hail noun [uncountable] frozen rain that falls in the form of hailstones (=small balls of ice)
    Ex: The hail and high winds have destroyed many of the county’s crops.
  • sleet noun [uncountable] a mixture of snow and rain
    Ex: The rain had turned to sleet.
    Sleet and snow fell.
  • the rains noun [plural] heavy rain that falls during a particular period in the year in tropical countries
    Ex: The farmers are waiting for the rains to come.
  • monsoon noun [countable] the heavy rain that falls between April and October in India and other southern Asian countries
    Ex: The monsoon is late this year.
    the monsoon season

The wind

  • There was a gentle breeze on the beach, just enough to cool us.
  • There was a very strong/high wind, and my umbrella blew
  • There was a gale that day, so we didn’t go sailing. [very high wind]
  • People stayed indoors because there was a hurricane on the [extremely high, dangerous wind]

Bigger wind – storm

  • storm a period of very bad weather when there is a lot of rain or snow, strong winds, and often lightning
    Ex: The ship sank in a violent storm.
    They got caught in a storm on top of the mountain.
    The storm hit the coast of Florida on Tuesday.
    The cost of repairing storm damage will run into millions of pounds.
  • thunderstorm a storm in which there is a lot of thunder (=loud noise in the sky) and lightning (=flashes of light in the sky)
    When I was young I was terrified of thunderstorms.
  • hurricane a storm that has very strong fast winds and that moves over water – used about storms in the North Atlantic Ocean
    Hurricane Katrina battered the US Gulf Coast.
  • typhoon a very violent tropical storm – used about storms in the Western Pacific Ocean
    Weather experts are monitoring typhoons in Hong Kong and China.
  • cyclone a severe storm affecting a large area, in which the wind moves around in a big circle
    Thousands of people died when a tropical cyclone hit Bangladesh.
  • tornado (also twister American English informal) an extremely violent storm that consists of air that spins very quickly and causes a lot of damage
    For the second time in a week deadly tornado have torn through Tennessee.
  • snowstorm a storm with strong winds and a lot of snow
    A major snowstorm blew across Colorado.
  • blizzard a severe snowstorm in which the snow is blown around by strong winds, making it difficult to see anything
    Denver is bracing itself for blizzard conditions.

The cloud

  • cloud noun [countable, uncountable] a white or grey mass in the sky that forms from very small drops of water
    The storm was still a way off but black clouds were gathering. Thick cloud obscured the top of the hill.
  • fog noun [countable, uncountable] very thick cloud near the ground which is difficult to see through
    The cars crashed into each other in thick fog.
    The fog had lifted (=disappeared) slightly.
  • mist noun [countable, uncountable] light cloud near the ground that makes it difficult for you to see very far. Mist is usually not as thick as fog. You often get mist near areas of water or mountains
    The morning mist was lifting and the sun was coming up.
    A grey mist hung over the water.The hills were shrouded in mist (=surrounded by mist).
  • haze noun [singular, uncountable] smoke, dust, or mist in the air which is difficult to see through
    He saw the horses coming towards him through a haze of dust.
    The road shimmered in the heat haze.
    A pale blue haze hung over the far-off mountains.
  • smog noun [countable, uncountable] dirty air that looks like a mixture of smoke and fog, caused by smoke from cars and factories in cities
    The city is covered in smog for much of the year.A smog warning was issued for parts of Southern Oregon.
  • thundercloud noun [countable] a large dark cloud that you see before or during a storm
    He watched the thunderclouds roll across the valley.
  • vapour trail British English, vapor trail American English noun [countable] the white line that is left in the sky by a plane
    High overhead, a jet left its vapour trail across the blue


boiling (very hot)hotwarmnot very warm (also cool)cold (also chilly)freezing (very cold)
Language help

Cool can either mean slightly cold in a negative way, e.g. We’ve had a cool summer; or slightly cold in a pleasant way, e.g. The water in the pool was lovely and cool.

Mild is often used in a positive way to describe weather that is not as cold as usual, e.g. It’s been a mild winter.


In Northern Europe, daytime1 temperatures are often quite mild, even in late2 autumn. The days are often misty3, foggy and damp4. Soon, winter arrives, with frost5, icy roads and severe6 weather, including heavy snow. As people expect the weather to be bad, they try and keep warm, so they don’t freeze! Freezing weather may continue in the far north until May or even June, when the ground starts to thaw / θɔː /7 and the ice melts8 again.

1 during the day
2 towards the end of a period of time
3 with clouds of small drops of water in the air, making it difficult to see things in the distance
4 slightly wet, and not pleasant or comfortable
5 thin, white layer of ice on surfaces when the weather is very cold
6 extremely bad
7 change from hard, frozen state to softer state
8 change from solid to liquid under heat

  • snow noun [uncountable] soft white frozen water that falls from the sky
    The ground was covered with deep snow.
    Snow began to fall.
  • snowflakes noun [plural] pieces of snow falling from the sky
    The first snowflakes fluttered down between the trees.
  • sleet noun [uncountable] a mixture of snow and rain
    The snow turned to sleet and then rain.
  • slush noun [uncountable] snow on the road that has partly melted and is very wet
    I made my way through the dirty slush.
  • blizzard noun [countable] a storm with a lot of snow and a strong wind
    We got caught in a blizzard on our way to school.
  • frost noun [uncountable] white powder that covers the ground when it is cold
    Frost can kill delicate plants.
  • hail/hailstones noun [uncountable, plural] drops of rain that fall as ice
    Hail bounced on the tiled roof.
    He heard a strange sound, like hailstones striking glass.
  • a white Christmas a Christmas when there is snow
    Do you think there will be a white Christmas this year?


In a tropical climate1, the weather is often stifling2, muggy3 and humid4. In other hot climates, there may be boiling5 hot days, and heatwaves6 may be common

1very hot, as in countries near the Equator

2 hot, uncomfortable, you can hardly breathe

3 very warm and a little damp

4 hot and damp, makes you sweat a lot

5 extremely hot

 6very hot, dry periods


Here are some less common but nonetheless useful words about weather, so that you can have typical weather conversations where you agree with someone by using a near-synonym. In these examples, B replies using more informal language.

A: Bit cold today, isn’t it?
B: Yes, it’s chilly/freezing/nippy, isn’t it?
A: It’s hot, isn’t it?
B: Yes, it’s boiling/sweltering/roasting!
A: It’s a bit windy today!
B: Yes, really blowy/breezy, isn’t it?
A: What oppressive/sultry weather!
B: Yes, isn’t it stifling/heavy/close?
A: What a downpour/deluge!
B: Yes, it’s chucking it down / it’s pouring!
A: Isn’t it humid today?
B: Yes, horrible muggy/clammy/sticky weather!


weather deteriorates [opposite: improves]The weather is likely to deteriorate

later on today.

Deteriorate is quite formal – the weather is getting worse is more informal.
thick/dense fog; patches of fog/mist a blanket of fog [literary]

fog/mist comes down [opposite: lifts]

There is thick fog on the motorway.

There are patches of fog on the east coast but these should lift by midday.

Patches of fog/mist are small areas of fog/mist, whereas a blanket of fog/mist is thicker and more extensive.
strong sun [opposite: weak]Avoid going on the beach at midday when the sun is strongest. 
heavy rain (NOT strong rain) driving rainRoad conditions are difficult because of the driving rain.driving rain = rain falling fast and heavily
heavy/fresh/crisp/thick/driving snowThe snow is lovely and crisp

this morning.

crisp snow = snow that is fresh and hard
hard frostThere will be a hard frost tonight.opposite of a hard frost = a light frost (NOT a soft frost)
high/strong/light/biting winds

the wind picks up [opposite: dies down] the wind blows/whistles

The wind was light this morning but it’s picking up now and will be very strong by the evening. The wind was whistling through the trees.biting winds = very cold winds If the wind picks up, it gets stronger.


It will brighten up1in the north of England tomorrow morning, but the sun won’t last long, and the region will soon cloud over2 again. Rain in the east will clear up3 [ater. An area of high pressure means it should warm up4 over the next few days in most regions, except in the far north, where it will actually cool downs a little because of strong north-easterly winds. On the south coast winds will pick up6during the afternoon, becoming strong by the evening.


1 the sky will become lighter and the sun will start to shine

2 the sky will become covered with clouds

3 it will stop being rainy or cloudy

4 become warmer

5 become cooler

6 become stronger

Practice reading English weather news at: Reading weather forecast: practice weather vocabulary (


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