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Just as the question asks, what is the difference between Seventh Heaven and Cloud Nine? I know that both mean extreme pleasure or joy, but I'm wondering if they have different meanings when used in the same context.

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  • the two phrases are completely and totally different. "cloud nine" has utterly no connection to pleasure, joy, or reaching nirvana. you use "cloud nine" in relation to someone who has drifted off and is not paying attention (in a daze) - it's usually used like "Earth to Cloud Nine".
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 15:01
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    @JoeBlow: I've never heard that usage. In my world, "cloud nine" is indeed a synonym of "seventh heaven". If someone is off in daydream-land, the usual phrase is "Earth to [insert name here]".
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 15:44
  • Ngram finds "cloud nine" used in the "spaced out" sense in 1955.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 21:49
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    For one thing while you’re in Seventh Heaven, you are on Cloud Nine.
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 23:52

3 Answers 3

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The principal difference is that they belong to quite different era and etymology. 'Seventh heaven' is the most exalted level of heaven, esp. the highest and most holy or blessed of the hierarchical series of heavens described in Jewish and Islamic theology According to the Talmudic Hagigah 12b, the place where God dwells over the angels, the souls of the righteous, and the souls of those yet to be born. The OED has a reference from as early as the fourteenth century.

c1390 (▸a1325) Ipotis (Vernon) 82 in C. Horstmann Altengl. Legenden (1881) 2nd Ser. 342 Þe seuenþe heuene, seiþ þe storie, Is paradys aftur purgatorie.

Cloud nine is not even in the OED as a composite. My sense is that it is late-twentieth-century but I am unaware of its etymology. The Phrase Finder seems uncertain of its origin but tends to corroborate my idea of late-twentieth-century. (Unless the Buddhist idea holds water) See:

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/on-cloud-nine.html

I think the meaning and use of the two terms differs in that 'seventh heaven' is usually used to mean that the subject is in a state of blissful happiness, whereas 'cloud nine' is perhaps used more to imply that the subject is in such a state of blissful euphoria that they are unaware of what's going on around them, and detached from everyday concerns.It tends to be applied to daydreamers - 'it's no use talking to him, he's on cloud nine'

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To complete WS2's answer:

cloud nine (n.)

A feeling of well-being or elation —usually used with on

Still on cloud nine weeks after winning the championship

First Known Use 1936
M-W

be on cloud nine
idiom
informal

"Was Helen pleased about getting that job?" "Pleased? She was on cloud nine!"
Cambridge

cloud nine
in American English
informal
Noun
A state of perfect happiness (usually in the phrase on cloud nine)

Word origin
[1955–60]
This word is first recorded in the period 1955–60.
Collins

cloud nine (n.)

  1. A state of bliss, sometimes drug-induced; also attrib.

  2. Crack cocaine.

Green's Dictionary of Slang

See also Cloud nine Vs. Dante's Inferno!


Why is happiness referred to as "seventh heaven" or "cloud nine"?

The ancient Jews believed that the highest heaven, or "heaven of heavens," the home of God and his chosen angels, was the "seventh heaven". The Muslims agreed that the seventh heaven was the pinnacle of ecstasy. "Cloud nine" was coined by the American weather bureau and means "as high as clouds can get," or between thirty and forty thousand feet. Its meaning as a euphoric state came about in the 1950s.
Doug Lennox; Now You Know Big Book of Answers (2007)

We all know that Cloud Nine or on Cloud Nine refers to a state of elation or happiness, but why nine? A totally unsubstantiated explanation is that it denotes one of the classifications of clouds defined by the US Weather Bureau in the 1950s. Cloud Nine is the fluffy cumulonimbus type that is considered to be attractive.
Another explanation is that the phrase is derived from Buddhism and that Cloud Nine is one of the stages in the progress to enlightenment of one destined to become a Buddha. Bob Rockwell; Alone in the Dark (2012)

In case you haven't been fortunate enough to go there, Cloud Nine is a metaphorical place of great joy or euphoria. The origin of this expression is often attributed to a system of cloud numbering in the 1950s by the US Weather Bureau. However, while it is eminently possible that meteorology was behind Cloud Nine, to attribute the system to the US Weather Bureau is incorrect, as the original Classification actually came in the International Cloud Atlas of 1896.
...
Cloud Nine therefore seemed a nice metaphor for floating, carefree, high above the Earth (and was enthusiastically adopted by marijuana smokers during the 1960).
Michael Millar; The Secret Lives of Numbers (2012)

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  • Interesting that Collins label [cloud nine] 'a word' (along with 'cassette', 'geodesic dome', 'rite of passage', 'rollout', 'software'). I'd stick with 'lexeme'. CGEL doesn't accept open compounds. Commented May 25 at 10:42
  • M-W keeps their section header "Word History" in their entries for seventh heaven and cloud nine
    – DjinTonic
    Commented May 25 at 11:22
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Cloud nine might be a reference to Dante's description of nine spheres of heaven in Divine Comedy (Paradiso)

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  • How does this address the question? Please see the help center and take a moment to tour the site.
    – livresque
    Commented May 25 at 16:11

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