Is there some word that I could use in place of precipitation when I don't know if it's raining, snowing, or hailing outside? Saying "there is probably precipitation right now" (in place of something more certain about the state of the precipitation like "I think it's raining right now") sounds stiff.

For instance, if I walk into a building while it's raining or snowing and ten minutes later someone asks about the weather (which is liable to change, especially during early winter), what could I say?

  • 2
    What's wrong with looking out of the window?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 21:33
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    Sometimes I am in rooms are in the center of buildings or underground and don't have windows to the outside...
    – Jocelyn H
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 21:35
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    But wouldn't the temperature be a guideline? Below zero, it's likely to be snow; if it's the summer then it has to be rain. And if you find yourself on a floor without windows how could you tell there is any "precipitation"? I don't think you will find an answer to your question, the word, precipitation covers all the bases. It is quite formal, admittedly, but it's well known too.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 21:39
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    "Bad weather" is largely though not exactly synonymous with "weather involving some form of precipitation", and sounds less ridiculous. Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 21:45
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    In my humble opinion, there is really only one good response to that question, which is, "Well, it was raining (snowing, or whatever) when I came in ten minutes ago." Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 21:51

2 Answers 2


You could just say "wet". This tends to be accepted in the English language quite happily, even when snowing as it still contains moisture.

Alternatively you could say "bad" which is often associated with wet weather.


Meteorologists often use the term precipitation when predicting weather conditions in the future.
From the Edmonton Journal:

But get ready to don your warm, waterproof gear come September, October and November when southern and central Alberta may see significantly more precipitation than usual.

“In November, it’s most likely not going to be rain,” Kulak said [a warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment Canada.]

In November it might not rain in Edmonton, but the weather expert cannot know for certain; he is merely speculating. If it became cold enough there could be sleet; or hail; or even snow.

On the UK Met Office site I found this definition of precipitation:

What is precipitation?

The definition of precipitation is any form of water - liquid or solid - falling from the sky. It includes rain, sleet, snow, hail and drizzle plus a few less common occurrences such as ice pellets, diamond dust and freezing rain.

Thus the word precipitation is best left to the meteorologists when they are making short or long term weather forecasts.

In the OP's case, the expression precipitation has been used incorrectly.

"there is probably precipitation right now"

If the OP insisted on using the term then she ought to say It was precipitating when I arrived at work. This however, sounds stilted and is too vague to be of any real help. The person asking for information is left none the wiser. A far more natural, and more accurate description, as suggested by @John M. Landsberg in the comment section, would be to say

It was raining/snowing/hailing when I arrived ten minutes ago

thereby leaving the asker; the task and responsibility of checking the weather conditions for him or herself.

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