The UK Meterological Office is the government body responsible for weather forecasting here.

On TV and radio forecasts, they have taken to using the phrase "sharp showers" to indicate sudden, heavy rain showers (I had to telephone their press office to find that out, as they don't enlarge on it in their limited-time media slots).

But what is the origin of that phrase? I have never heard it used in colloquial British English of any dialect or accent, so wondered where it comes from.

  • Perhaps from the phrase "short and sharp" or "short, sharp", meaning brief but intense.
    – John Feltz
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 11:30
  • I have to say that, in 50 years as a meteorologist and forecaster, I've never come across the phrase "sharp showers", but the meaning is pretty obvious and I have no trouble with it. A sudden strong gust of wind with a short heavy rain shower would usually be called a squall.
    – tautophile
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 17:04

2 Answers 2


The phrase has been in use for over two hundred years. From Transactions of the Dublin Society Volume III for the Year MDCCCII a description of the weather for September 11, 1802:

Wind high ; sunshine and a light frost this morning ; a shower of rain and hail about ten ; cloudy and sharp showers at intervals this day; a fine clear moonlight night;


sharp etymonline possible origin

The adverbial meaning "abruptly" is from 1836;

Though not specifically 'sharp weather' my sense is of abrupt onset.

From Royal Society (Great Britain) - 1749 google books

The Forenoon overcast, with fine fresh Gales at WNW, and sharp Weather, the Afternoon more serene and smaller Gales. Q 30 ã 3 26. Fair serene Weather, with fine sharp Gales

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