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Last week, I was up the whole night working in my house in my ultra-quiet neighborhood. Around 3 am, a thunderstorm started and broke the silence of the night. I enjoyed the sound of rain on my window and my roof. The next day, I was telling the story to a friend, but I couldn't find a good word to describe the sound of rain. The closest thing I had in my mind was the word impinge, which I had seen in a sentence from James Joyce.

"I heard the rain impinge upon the earth" -- James Joyce

Impinge precisely captures all I want to convey about my experience with the sound of the rain, but it is too formal for a conversation with a friend. Is there a good word to describe my experience?

  • 6
    "Impinge" generally has a negative connotation, so using impinge here seems like a bad thing. – Nick2253 Oct 31 '14 at 16:01
  • My son, who began his academic career in music, has a collection of rainsticks, each one of which replicates one particular cadence of the falling rain. The sound can vary enormously depending on its intensity, the surface on to which it falls etc. But each one to which I have listened sounds in some way authentic. So I think you are not looking for one word but for many. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainstick – WS2 Oct 31 '14 at 16:30

14 Answers 14

16

I heard the rain thrumming on the roof.

I heard the rain pelting the window.

I heard the rain battering the roof.

I heard the rain drumming on the window.

Or, if you like the drumming idea and want to get a bit more literary about it, how about:

The rain beat a gentle / violent / solemn tattoo on the roof.

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved by providing an explanation of the differences between these words, with suitable examples and dictionary definitions. I encourage you to review the help center for guidance on providing good answers. – choster Oct 31 '14 at 16:31
22

There are a lot of good idiomatic phrases in English for rain:

The rain pitter-pattered on the roof top.

"Pitter-patter" means light sounds or beats, and often is used to describe the sound of small animals (like cats) as they gently move about. It has a fairly positive and easy-going connotation, and using "pitter-patter" to describe rain invokes a sense of melody and calm.

The rain sprinkled on the roof top.

"Sprinkle" means scattering or dispersing. It generally is applied to small objects, like dust or sugar coatings. When describing rain, it generally implies that the rain drops are small and gentle. It can imply a feeling of spreading in a haphazard or unguided way. For this reason, it has a fairly neutral connotation, generally meaning light rain.

The rain showered the roof top.

"Shower" means a lot of water, should evoke the feeling of being in a shower. It creates a sense of a large quantity of water, coming down in large drops. It's not necessarily aggressive or negative, but implies lots and lots of water. A "shower" of water on the roof wouldn't be resolvable in individual drop sounds, but would instead be a steady drone of noise.

The rain pelted the roof top.

"Pelt" means to attack with objects. Here, it should evoke a sense of anger or aggression, as if the water were throwing itself in attack at the roof. "Pelting rain" would be large, fast drops, coming down hard.

The rain battered the roof top.

"Batter" means to beat or attack. Generally, it always evokes a sense of aggression and violence. When used with rain, it often implies a type of windy rain, as the wind and the rain "work together" to attack the building. In the minds eye, you might see shutters banging about and hear the whistling of the wind when you imagine "battering rain".

There are a lot more phrases, but these should get you going. If you are looking for a more specific connotation, I'll see what I can come up with.

6

Maybe 'sprinkle' or 'patter' or 'pelt'?

  • or possibly 'splatter' – Wayfaring Stranger Oct 31 '14 at 16:03
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    Your answer could be improved by providing an explanation of the differences between these words, with suitable examples and dictionary definitions. I encourage you to review the help center for guidance on providing good answers. – choster Oct 31 '14 at 16:31
3

You are trying to convey not only what the rain did, but how it made you feel. Metaphor is an option: strummed, thrummed, tinkled, drummed (musical metaphors) whispered, sighed, groaned, grumbled, danced, tap danced (personification)

Other possibilities: plinked, beat, droned, roared, rushed, whooshed, crashed, careened, tumbled, tapped, gurgled, thundered

Perhaps not strictly focused on the sound:

More figurative (and may require additional words): enveloped, enfolded, embraced

And the more literal choices: streamed, poured, deluged, doused, submerged

3

One of my favourites is:

Outside the rain is tapping on the leaves, to me it sounds like they're applauding us the quiet love we've made.

--Ray Lamontagne, Empty

Such a beautiful imposition of the humanity found sometimes around us in the natural. Certainly we can see this beauty clearly if we are only in the right mood.

2

As I type, I am listening to the plashing of the first significant downpour of rain to fall in central (aka "northern") California in seven months. Here is Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary's definition of plash, which I was surprised to learn has been in use since at least 1513 as a noun and 1542 as a verb:

plash vi (1542) : to cause a splashing or spattering effect vt : to break the surface (of water) : SPLASH

The intransitive form of the verb is the relevant one here.

  • Plash sounds like a good word to describe rain on window. I'm looking for a strong word for rain on roof because it sounds more aggressive. – Always Asking Oct 31 '14 at 16:51
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    @Always Asking: In that case, in addition to the excellent suggestions by Rusty Tuba, Nick2253, and Sharkusha, you might consider the less common verb percuss: "to tap sharply; esp. to practice percussion on." Merriam-Webster dates that verb to 1560. – Sven Yargs Oct 31 '14 at 16:59
1

Rain.

As in: I enjoyed the sound of rain on my window and on my roof.

I am not trying to go all Hemingway or William Zinzer on you, but we often rob everyday nouns of their strength by using florid adjectives or baroque words. The reader or listener can be trusted to connect with the sentence that you wrote with his or her own pleasant experiences of the sound of rain.

1

Susurration is a soothing word, a whispering sound.

  • Lovely word, but it's not usually associated with rain though, is it? How would you fit that word in a phrase with rain? – Mari-Lou A Nov 1 '14 at 22:43
0

Cadence: the modulated and rhythmic recurrence of a sound especially in nature

  • Doesn't cadence have a falling and raising connotation? For e.g., I'd say "cadence of her breath after running a mile" but rain does not have that repetitive falling and raising quality. – Always Asking Oct 31 '14 at 16:24
  • That will depend what rhythmic items you are using it for. "the steady candence of the drums" /or/ "the oars moved back and forth in a steady cadence" – Pablo Oct 31 '14 at 16:29
  • Cadence suggests something that has a regular rhythm, like hoofbeats, a heartbeat, a drum, a drip, oars, or maybe even a woodpecker. I wouldn't consider rain to have a regular rhythm. – Peter Shor Oct 31 '14 at 16:49
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If you perceive a musical quality in it, you might choose tintinnabulation (although it is often reserved for bell-like sounds)

A ringing or tinkling sound. [Oxford Dictionaries Online]

0

"susurration" is probably what I would use.

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    Welcome to Stack Exchange. It might be useful if you read how-to-answer as this answer doesn't explain your rationale behind why you would use that word. A good answer to this question makes it clear why a particular choice is a good one. – Matt E. Эллен Oct 31 '14 at 23:08
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This question reminded me of an old favorite ABBA song: "The day before you came",

And turning out the light
I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night.
And rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
The day before you came

Songwriters: ANDERSSON, BENNY GORAN BROR / ULVAEUS, BJOERN K. The Day Before You Came lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing

  • 1
    What is your answer, though? "Rattling?" It is, unfortunately, also the same verb that can be used to describe what prisoners do to the bars of their cages — not necessarily a pleasant connotation. – 200_success Nov 1 '14 at 10:05
  • Hmmm you may have a point. It's just because for me 'rattling on the roof' does have a soothing effect for me, but may not be the best word to express what the OP wanted. – Lucien Raven Nov 1 '14 at 13:09
0

There's always this song asking us to "Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain".

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Because nobody has said it yet, I like the word trickle.

It gives a sense of light, calming motion and can sound both poetic and whimsical.

  • A downvote does no good without an explanation – Pharap Jul 23 '16 at 1:11

protected by tchrist Feb 22 '15 at 4:03

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