“The devil is beating his wife….”

What weather phenomenon is described by, “The devil is beating his wife and the angels are crying”?

Email me your answer, and where you grew up (or what influences you were under, as in, parents originally from a different part of the country than where you grew up).

When I witnessed that phenomenon and made that remark, another woman joined in with me and finished the sentence. She was raised in Milwaukee, but her parents were from Louisiana. We were wondering if it’s a widespread expression, American or international or something Southern, possibly even Louisiana- or Mississippi-centric.

I’ll report in when I have answers!

Oh, if you don’t know the answer, you could email me that, too, with the same info.


Oh. And Happy 4th of July!




Filed under Misc.

87 responses to ““The devil is beating his wife….”

  1. Did you see the recent “How southern do you speak” test that was going around?

    Some people (ahem) scored highly.
    100% B

    • Gwen Odum

      From the Virginia side of DC. My Irish grandmother always used that expression when the sun was shining and it was raining.

  2. 84% Dixie — which surprises me, as many of those terms I use that are Northeastern.

    I like that it tells you which regions use which expressions. Cool.

    So far the feedback I’m getting about the devil beating his wife is that it’s not at all used in the north, and may be more Texas-centric. Keep ’em coming!

  3. Carla

    I was born in Alabama raised in Georgia. My grandmother explained it to me when I was about six years old. I think it’s just a southern thing.

  4. I’m going to write up my “findings” in the next day or two. Thanks!

  5. Laura

    I had never heard that expression, “the devil is beating his wife” I honestly found it kind of disturbing, here (connecticut) we call it a sunshower, which sounds bright and pretty and other places call it the devil is beating his wife and i was just astounded…yet interested enough to look up the origin of it.

  6. Thanks for reminding me of this. I’ll post a new entry about what I found about the origins soon. Please feel free to add anything new you’ve found, too.

  7. E. Taylor

    My parents would say “The devil is beating his wife” when we heard thunder in a rainstorm.

  8. E. Taylor

    My parents would say “The devil is beating his wife” when we heard thunder in a rainstorm. They were both from Levan, Utah, located in the middle of the state

  9. Scott

    I can finish the phrase: The Devil is beating his wife around the stump!” This is said in the south when there is what Yankees call a sunshower. It represents the tears of the angels who are sad over this action. Some folks call it a gypsy wedding!

  10. Summer

    I use that phrase “The Devil is beating his wife” here in Oklahoma. We actually have countrified it even more by saying the phrase “The Devil is beating his old woman!”

    • Georgia Estes

      Never heard of this one, but we grew up calling it a “monkey’s wedding” when it was sunny and raining at the same time. I grew up in Zambia, but my folks were from Iowa, Oklahoma, California, and Missouri, and had some of the other expressions like” 3 shakes of a dead lamb’s tail” etc.

  11. My Grandmother used to say when the sun is shining and it is raining at the same time, the devil is beating his wife. That was in the 40s and 50s. We are from Athens, Texas,in East Texas. My grandmothers Grandmother named the town. Her name was Dullcenia Avriette. There is a street there with that name. From Michele In Houston,Tx

  12. Bess

    I grew up in southern Louisiana. The local kids always said “the devil’s beating his wife” when we had a sunshower. My father was from central Texas and my mother was from northern Mississippi. Neither of them ever used this term. I don’t think of it as the least bit Texan, as I have lived in Houston, Corpus Christi, Dallas, and Austin. The only folks who joined me in using the saying were from Louisiana!

  13. Molly

    I’m from MS, near Louisiana. We say this when it’s sunny and raining.

  14. Today it’s raining and the sun is shining and I told my boyfriend (who is from Chicago) that the Devil must be beating his wife. He replied what … and I explained the expression of the rain pouring down while it’s sunny outside. He said he has never heard of that and he calls it a sun shower. I was born and raised in Paris TX for 18 years and now I live in FL. I haven’t thought of that phrase in years but I am assuming it’s a southern phrase and I actually never knew what the expression really meant but it was something I said as a kid. But after reading a few comments I can see it’s origin and meaning.

  15. I love hearing from so many different people on this. Believe it or not — and I really should do an addendum to this entry — the origin appears to be HUNGARIAN. Odd, eh?

  16. Ceci

    I’ve grown up hearing this phrase used to describe when it is raining but the sun is shining.
    I’ve lived my whole life in the greater houston area, my mom grew up south of houston near the coast. and her father grew up in the vally of texas.

  17. Cindy

    Born, bred and lifelong Toledoan and I’ve never heard the expression.
    Someone mentions thunder and rainstorms. We say that God or the angels are bowling during the rumbles and He or they get a strike when there is a loud BOOM!

  18. AnnMarie

    I was glad to see this discussion and various explanations for the saying ” the Devil’s beating his wife”, which is often said when it is raining and the sun is shining. My Mom says this and told me that she remembers her Mother saying it while growing up too. All of us are from Irish decent and have resided in Maryland all our lives. Recently I started researching this topic, because my husband (who was born in TX, and lived in Iowa) never heard this expression before hearing me say it.. He has been relentless in making fun of me for it!!!

  19. M Smith

    My grandmother told me this saying when I was a child in the 1950’s. She was born in 1896 and raised in Dublin, Georgia (middle of the state). Adding also the stump. The Devil is beating his wife behind a stump”.

  20. cwallace

    I grew up in Louisiana, as did both of my parents. We would always use the phrase “The devil is beating his wife..” to describe when it was raining and the sun was shining. I moved to Utah, and I haven’t met anyone (yet) that recognizes this phrase. I got some strange looks when I said this today! I actually was researching the phrase, thinking I was crazy, when I stumbled up on this discussion! 🙂

  21. My grandmother used this expression, and is the only person I ever heard say it. She was born in Kansas, and rarely left the county of her birth (Greenwood County) until the day she died 86 years later. Her parents were born in the same area, and her grandparents came from either Missouri, Iowa or Illinois. So much for the Southern thing…

  22. Buzz Anderson

    I picked that phrase up as a kid from my mother (among others), and was always kind of mystified that no one else had ever heard of it up here where I was born and raised (Minnesota). “Two shakes of a dead lamb’s tail” is another one I got from her that gets funny looks from the crowd; that one never registers with anybody around here.

    Well, although my mom was raised in the Upper Midwest too, she had picked up a lot of idioms from her father (my grandfather), who was a, shall we say … roughly polished … product of the Arkansas Ozarks. And all these things of his she, in turn, handed on down to me, I guess.

    Except for the old man’s accent, which never really left the Hills; it’s the one thing my grandfather largely ditched when he packed up, took a northern wife, and left the Hills forever.

  23. i am from the south and heard about the devil beating his wife weather thing from my great grandmother.. a very southern lady..had one of those rains yesterday in orlando..so it is southern!! war eagle!

  24. Deborah Burroughs Clements

    My mama was from Crossroads, outside of Bay Minette, AL and she said this as long as I can remember. I’ve never heard anyone else recognize it, though. And I never heard the second part (the angels are crying) of the expression.

  25. Donnie

    I am from Tennessee and heard all while I was growing up that it means ‘The devil is beating his wife’. I said it too my boss today (I now live in CA) she had never heard this before.

  26. julie

    ..my grandmother is 68 born and raised in Bermuda and she told me when the sun is shining the devils beating his wife also. i think our older generations have a way with handing down traditional analogies.. im happy to see a lot of grandmas out there said the same thing as mine!

  27. Terry

    I grew up In Prince Edward Island Canada and it is very common here, I have also heard it in Newfoundland, it also seems to be used by the Scots and Irish.

  28. Ah, that’s interesting and makes sense.

  29. Jane

    I come from a long line of Virginians, and I’ve heard it my whole life. I looked this up because I live in New Jersey now and said it to my Yankee friend the other day, and she looked at me like I was crazy!

    By the way, my part of Virginia was settled by the Scots.

  30. Which part of Virginia is that? My grandmother’s family originated in Virginia–well, it was Virginia at the time and then became West Virginia! LOL!

  31. Karin

    I’m also from Virginia (Tidewater area) and heard it all my life. My grandparents were from North Carolina and great-grandmother born in Texas and they said it. But I just asked a friend who is from Colorado and she had never heard it.

  32. Mark

    I grew up in Mobile, Alabama. My father, born in Citronelle, Alabama in about 1917 used to always say “the devil is beating his wife” when we had a sunshower. It may be of Scotch-Irish origin since it seems to be fairly wide spread, but most common in the South.

  33. Michelle

    Odd that you in Connecticut never heard about about it before and thought it was a Texas thing. I, a Texan, learnt of it in 2001 from an upper-crust boy from Connecticut.

  34. ashley

    I grew up in Atlanta,Georgia and my parents and grandparents always said this when there was a sunshower.They are from Alabama and Georgia. Both familys have lived in the south since 1700. I never really questioned the meaning, it was just what you said.I was interested in see what others thought.

  35. mel

    I grew up in middle Georgia and it was a common expression. I said it to a co-worker in Cleveland, OH and she looked at me like I was crazy! I think that part of my family was from east TN but not sure.

  36. Czechbikr

    I just searched this as we have a sunshower this morning and I recollected my Irish mother born and raised in Chicago saying that expression. Her grandmother originated from central Illinois ( Paxton) and came to Chicago in the 1890’s and it may have come from her.

  37. Nikki

    I was born in Ohio, parents from Mississippi, they use to say this when the sun was out and it was raining. Never heard of a “sunshower.” That is probably the politically correct term, but old sayings are more fun! Just like saying it is raining cats and dogs, now we all know there is no such thing, but we all understand it means it is pouring outside!

  38. tom

    I’m from southern Virginia. I first heard the expression from my grandmother. My wife (from New York) had never heard it and finds it disturbing. I suppose the beating of one’s wife is what bothers her. although you must ask yourself what kind of wife would Satan have?

    Wikipedia has a wealth of information on this phrase.

  39. David

    I heard the phrase from my parents and grandparents who were all from Indiana.

  40. Keith

    I heard that expression all my life growing up in New Orleans’ seventh ward.

  41. Tom

    I am born and raised in Texas. The variation that I have always said is that the devil’s wife is crying. From reading this thread I guess when I heard the phrase it was someone mixing the phrase up and trying to keep it nice.

  42. S. Kraus

    I learned it from my grandmother who has lived in Mississippi her entire life.

  43. Just heard the expression for the 1st time today and you were my first bit of research!

  44. djpt

    Baltimore Maryland in the 1950’s: My grandmother always said “The devil must be beating his wife!” whenever there was a sunshower. The raindrops were the angels’ tears. When i mentioned that expression to my wife who is from Minnesota and, later, Ohio, she had never heard it. So far, none of my co-workers in Columbus, Ohio had heard it, either.

  45. Paul Baker

    My great grandmother said it when it was raining with the sun out. We are from all over Texas. Athens and then later West Texas – Denver City. It happen to be raining today with the sun out so I said it and my kids needed me to look up the origin on the internet. Very common to hear in Southeast Texas/Southwest Louisiana.

  46. I grew up in Alabama, my Mom always said when it rained while shining, The Devil’s wife burned his biscuits… maybe she did not like the beating part and changed it??

  47. Christal

    I grew up in Chicago but my grandmother and mother would always say “the devil was beating his wife ” when it was a sunshower. Both were from Orriville, Alabama! My husband had never heard of it and was completely confuse upon the statement.

  48. Buck

    The expression was common when I was a boy among the residents of Bachelors Hall, Virginia where I grew up. As very few, if any, of those old timers had been more than 50 miles from home, and all were from families which had lived in the area for generations, I have always assumed it to be of rural Southern (or English or Scots Irish) origin.

  49. Carl

    We had a rainfall while it was still sunny out 3 days in a row here in DC. I kept telling everyone that the devil is really beating the hell out of his wife. LOL!!!

    I’m from Houston, Texas. My family is from Louisiana(all over). I googled where the saying came from and your blog popped up. Did you ever find any information?

  50. Neil C.

    I’m from Penderlea North Carolina, about 40 miles northeast of Wilmington NC. I’m 41 and I always heard my grandparents and parents both say “The devil’s must be beating his wife because the angels are crying.” when it rained while the sun was out. My mother still says it and I use the term as well. Don’t know where it originated from though. I would be interested in hearing if you know.

  51. Steve P

    I am from Atlanta, GA and my Dad (also an Atlanta native) told me about this saying regarding rain and sunshine when I was a little kid. On a side note, he also extended the saying to include a scenario where sunshine when it’s snowing might mean Santa is beating his wife… (Needless to say, we have a sick sense of humor in my house).

    Anyhow, I used the saying last night (the one about rain and the devil, that is) and a friend from Haiti was surprised as they have the same saying there. It made me wonder if it the saying may have originated with African Americans settling in the South (and also Caribbean)…

  52. dayenne


    I live in Curacao(Caribbean, close to Aruba).. and here we also have the same saying.. and I bet that everyone here in this region uses this same expression too.. I wonder where it comes from and what’s the thought behind it.. :-/

  53. Michael

    I’m from Clay County, Mississippi and grew up hearing this phrase referring to it raining while the sun was shining. My family’s background is Irish and Dutch.

  54. I was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia in 1955, as was my Grandmother, who was born there in 1906. She used the expression for all of my young life, and said she learned it from her mother-in-law from High Point, NC.

  55. Lisa

    I was raised in East Texas, and always used that saying. Didn’t think anything about until I went off to College.

  56. rob

    My dad would say “The devil is beating his wife” during a sunshower, but if there was thunder while the moon was out it was “the devil is beating his mother.”
    I asked where it came from and he said it wa an old Irish folk tale.

  57. bob

    I grew up in Alabama. My dad (who was there his whole life) said “the devil is beating his wife” every time it rained ans the sun was shining, but I never asked him where he first heard it. I joked about it today here in Illinois when we were having sunshine and snow, asking “What is the devil doing today?” My friend was just stared very perplexed. I am a meteorologist and never heard the term sunshower until I moved to Illinois as an adult. Of course, early or late in the day, when the sun is shining and it is raining, look for a rainbow.

  58. Bill

    My parents are both from central Indiana and have said this my whole life. I was born in Texas, but my mom’s folks that have never left IN still say it…

  59. john

    My Mississippi mother used the expression. She lived all of her life in Winston County. Though she was German and French, she lived among a mixture of Scots, Irish, and English—most of whom had been in the U.S. since the 18th century or earlier.

  60. It appears that you all are Americans but this saying must be more ancient and more international than anyone could imagine. I heard this expression from my grandma who died 2 years ago at the age of 102 but she was born in an Armenian village in Turkey. My father told me when I was little that the sun shines while it rains because the devil’s wife is a hypocrite who is only pretending to cry and that is why it’s still sunny.

  61. sheila

    My mom used this expression all the time…she learned it from her parents who were from Oklahoma and Tennesse

  62. blake

    My parents taught me this when I was little. My father’s family is from GA, but my mother’s family is from the Bahamas and she used the expression also (not learned from Dad). They’re both FL-born.

  63. Sherry

    Born and raised in Georgia, my grandmother told me this as a child and I raised my children with the same saying.

  64. patricia carpenter

    I’m from Georgia and my mother used the expression- it means it’s sunny out and it’s raining at the same time.

  65. Ryan Roach

    I grew up in Denton, Texas just north of Dallas/Fort Worth. My grandmother use this phrase often. In her telling, it was “The Devil is whipping his wife with a frying pan”.

  66. rix

    I grew up on Long Island, New York and my mother said it all the time. Until now, I haven’t met anyone who has ever heard this. So, thank you all for for letting me know I’m not crazy.
    By the way, I like the additional part about the tears of the angels-that should cool out the over-reactive domestic abuse contingent. Lighten up! It’s just an old saying.

  67. Marc

    I grew up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and have the term my whole life (I’m 35), I’ve been working in Atlanta the last three months, and my co-workers that are from other Southern states (LA, AL, TX) are familiar with the term. My co-workers from up north are not.

  68. M Reeder

    Saw the one person from Houston who said they don’t know of anyone who used the expression in Texas. I’m a native, rural Texan, from near Waco, and I’ve heard that expression my whole life, from the time I was a little kid — and that’s the long side of fifty years. Refers to rain falling while the sun is shining. No clue as to origin. It’s just something everyone I grew up with always said. Had no idea anyone outside of Texas used it until now.

    • kit

      I just posted that on f/b, and most folks hadn’t heard of it..Canadians, Texans, Ohio, or Colorado…but one friend from Baltimore said her mother used to say it too..since my Mom was from Baltimore, I thought maybe it was from up that way..

  69. Kathy

    I was raised in San Antonio Texas and my grandmother said “the devil is beating his wife and the angels are crying” when we were having a sunstorm. Never knew the origin.
    My mother just said a man is a devil if he beat his wife which would make the angels cry.

  70. Rick Semingson

    A beautiful use of the phrase in Texan, Robert Earl Keen’s song, “Willie”. There’s a black cloud comin’ yonder. The devil beats his wife with a silver chain.

  71. Pony

    My father who grew up in Tennessee taught me this phrase.I’ve lived in Alabama my whole life and plenty of people here seem to know the saying.

  72. Mary

    My dad and his parents – all from West Texas families for several generations back, but of Irish/Scottish origin – said this. The phrase was “the devil is beating his wife” and the explanation was very similar to the turkish post here – that the rain was her tears (not gods or angels), but the sun was shining because her tears were fake. I didn’t really understand it then, and don’t really now either! It was just something that side of the family said. Interestingly, my mother, also from Texas families for several generations, but of mostly English origins, never said this, and (understandably) hated it. Likewise, my husband, who is ALSO from West Texas, but of german origins, had never heard it until I said it one day.

  73. Rock

    Northwest…but Irish/Scottish decent…Great Grandparents were from Scotland and the other set from Ireland…rain are the tears of the Devils wife…done to spoil the total enjoyment of the sunshine…”puts a damper on the sun”…

  74. zena malak

    I am from Chicago, and I’ve never heard of the saying before I met someone from Georgia and they said it to me. I thought it was a southern thing.

  75. su

    I live in Utah and my grandma used to always say the devil is beating his wife when it was raining and sun shining at the same time. I have always Wondered where the saying came from, and what it actually means. She was from Sweden???

  76. Jeff

    Somebody in an earlier reply said their Dad was from Central Texas and never had heard it…I’m from Central Texas an heard it all my life….just said it to my California wife (because we were having a shower with the sun shining) and she said “What is that??”

  77. Francine Corbett-Voltz

    Wow! This morning I was thinking about my Great Grandfather and all the things he used to say when I was a child. The devil beating his wife was one of my favorites. I noticed one reader mentioned a stump. He would say “The Devil is beating his wife around the old stump and the angels are crying.”. This was in East Central Texas (New Braunfels) in the 1950’s. He was born in 1892 in Angelina County (Lufkin – East Texas). He was already a 3rd generation Texan and was of Scot-Irish descent. His wife (my GGrandmother) was from an identical background and also used the ane expression. Does anyone want to weigh in on “two shakes of a lambs tail”, “a hissy fit” or “someone left the pasture gate open”?

  78. Jennifer Hardy

    I am from North Alabama, and heard this expression all of my life. I now live in Virginia and some people here say it as well. I actually found your site because I am wondering the origin of this saying. It seems that some families simply appreciate funny sayings and pass them on while others simply ignore them and let them die out. I do think this one originated in Ireland or England because the majority of early immigrants to the area I am from were from that part of Europe. I know that several in my family moved west from the Carolinas, then west again to Texas.

  79. JustJenna

    Born in 1949 in DC and raised in Richmond, VA. I heard this all my life and still use it. Confuses the heck out of all my friends/co-workers from other parts of the country. My grandmother’s twist on it was, if you make what we now know as the “telephone sign” and put your thumb in your ear and your little finger to the ground, you can hear Mrs. Devil hollering.
    I never heard “the pasture gate left open”, but I have always heard “the barn door is open”, which is a sly way to indicate to a guy that his fly is open. And, “it’s raining down South” which is a hint to a woman that her slip is showing beneath her skirt – but I doubt many women these days wear slips!

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