Here’s a riddle:
A monkey’s wedding in Zulu, a jackal’s in Hindi. The devil has a parish fair in Germany, and a witch makes butter in Poland. The rabbits are giving birth in Spain, and the devil is beating his wife in America.
What phenomenon are we talking about?
The Devil Is Beating His Wife – Meaning
The phrase “the devil is beating his wife” is used in the Southern United States to mean that it’s raining while the sun is still out. This phenomenon is known as a “sunshower” or “sun shower” and is subject to many different folklore analogies around the world.
There are many different sayings attributed to a sun shower around the globe, some of which are mentioned above. According to the Urban Dictionary, this phrase is mostly used in the US when it’s raining, but the sun is still visible.
In this metaphor, the sun is the fire being spat by the devil, while the rain is the resulting tears of his wife. Harsh, man. Morbid and harsh.
The Devil Is Beating His Wife – Origin
The etymology of the phrase “the devil is beating his wife” is not clear. So, we can’t give a certain answer as to who said this phrase first. However, it is generally accepted that it comes from the United States and Hungary.
Slang lexicographer Johnathan Green points out, however, that this phrase appears to have first been used in a French play from 1703:
- To go and thrash him around the churchyard, as the devil does his wife in rainy weather when the sun shines.
The famous Anglo-Irish author, Johnathan Swift, also made use of this phrase in 1738:
- The devil was beating his wife behind the door with a shoulder of mutton.
Although it may have originated in French literature, the phrase tends to be associated with the Southern United States in modern times.
The Devil Is Beating His Wife – Similar Quotes
There are many variations of the phrase “the devil is beating his wife”.
For example, in both the US and Hungary, you might hear the following phrase:
- The devil is beating his wife with a walking stick.
In the Appalachian region, the phrase is slightly altered (although far more preferable):
- The devil is kissing his wife.
Rather disturbingly, many sources suggest that, in France, the saying is:
- The devil is beating his wife and marrying his daughter.
However, this is the subject of some debate, and attributing this saying to the French seems to cause some offense in online discourse, so take it with a pinch of salt!
Incorrect Ways to Use “The Devil Is Beating His Wife”
The phrase “the devil is beating his wife” is, quite explicitly, just a metaphor. It is used when referencing the natural phenomenon of a sun shower. It is not referring to a terrible person (devilish, you might say) committing a domestic affront of some kind.
In What Situations Can You Use “The Devil Is Beating His Wife”?
The phrase “the devil is beating his wife” can be used to point out that the sun is shining despite the fact that it is raining.
If you find this particular saying as off-putting as we do, you might consider some of the alternatives used by other countries. A “monkey’s wedding” is a particular favorite of ours! We just like the imagery of a monkey in a tux.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.