The idiom “dog days of summer” refers to the hottest, most sultry days of summer.
It’s a period characterized by oppressive heat and humidity, often leading to feelings of lethargy and discomfort. While many might associate the term with lazy dogs lying around during the summer heat, its origins are more celestial than canine.
This phrase is often used to describe the languid, sweltering days where one might prefer to stay indoors, sip a cold drink, and avoid the blazing sun.
For instance, someone might say, “I don’t feel like doing anything during the dog days of summer.”
Dog Days of Summer Idiom Origins
The term has its roots in ancient astronomy and is closely associated with the star Sirius, also known as the Dog Star.
Here’s a brief overview of its origin:
- Ancient Astronomy: The term “dog days” was coined by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They noticed that the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius (located in the constellation Canis Major, or “Greater Dog”), rose and set with the sun during the hottest days of the year. This period, which they believed contributed to the summer heat, was named the “dog days” after the Dog Star.
- Sirius Significance: Sirius is the brightest star in the Earth’s night sky, and its name means “glowing” in Greek. The ancients believed that the combined heat of Sirius and the sun produced the hottest days of the year, hence the term “dog days.”
The idiom was also famously used by Shakespeare in his play, Henry VIII, where he writes of a man with a red nose who must have had it sunburnt in the dog days of summer:
There is a fellow somewhat near the door, he should be a brazier by his face, for, o’ my conscience, twenty of the dog-days now reign in’s nose;
Today, the idiom is less about the stars and more about the characteristic heat of the mid-summer months, typically from early July to early September in the Northern Hemisphere. And as the below graph shows, it’s become much more popular since about the 1970s:
10 Examples in a Sentence
- “The dog days of summer are here, and all I want is to relax by the pool.”
- “I remember those long dog days of summer as a kid, playing outside until the sun went down.”
- “The air conditioner broke during the dog days of summer, making it unbearable inside.”
- “Many people take vacations during the dog days of summer to escape the heat.”
- “The city set up cooling centers during the dog days of summer to help residents stay cool.”
- “Ice cream sales always spike during the dog days of summer.”
- “The dog days of summer are perfect for reading a good book in the shade.”
- “Farmers often have to water their crops more frequently during the dog days of summer.”
- “The beach is always crowded during the dog days of summer.”
- “Many festivals and events are scheduled before or after the dog days of summer to avoid the extreme heat.”
1. In the dead of winter
Definition: The coldest, darkest part of winter.
In a Sentence: “It feels so bleak in the dead of winter, I can’t wait for spring.”
2. Spring to life
Definition: To become lively or active.
In a Sentence: “The whole town springs to life during the annual spring festival.”
3. April showers bring May flowers
Definition: A reminder that even unpleasant situations can result in something beautiful.
In a Sentence: “I know the rain can be a downer, but remember, April showers bring May flowers.”
4. A long winter’s nap
Definition: A long sleep or rest.
In a Sentence: “After all the holiday festivities, I need a long winter’s nap.”
5. Harvest time
Definition: The time when crops are gathered from the fields.
In a Sentence: “Farmers are busiest during harvest time.”
6. Indian summer
Definition: A period of unusually dry, warm weather occurring in late autumn.
In a Sentence: “I love when we get an Indian summer in October; it feels like a bonus.”
7. Beat the heat
Definition: To stay cool in hot weather.
In a Sentence: “We went to the mountains to beat the heat during the dog days of summer.”