What does "let up" denote in "the rain/storm has let up so we can go out/drive back home"?

With a context lacking clarity, should it be understood as, "the [hard] rain/storm has lessened up to a light sprinkle/gentle rain (making it safe to go out, drive, use the Internet again, etc.)," or "the rain/storm has stopped and the weather is now calm"?

let up

: to diminish, as in I hope this rain lets up a little soon. When the snow lets up so I can see, I will drive to the store. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

: to cease, stop entirely, as in The rain has let up so we can go out. [Late 1700s] The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer

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    let up (n.): "cessation," 1837, from verbal phrase let up "cease, stop" (1787). In Old English the phrase meant "to put ashore." etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=Let+up
    – user66974
    Dec 24, 2015 at 14:18
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    CDO shows that both readings are available: › If ​bad ​weather or an ​unpleasant ​situation ​lets up, it ​stops or ​improves. >> (Macmillan agrees.) If there is insufficient context, the expression is thus ambiguous. Dec 24, 2015 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


I've heard it used both ways. Further context will clarify which usage exists.

Basically, the speaker is saying, "It was raining too hard to drive home, but now I think it's safe enough." That can mean that it has stopped entirely or simply that it has lessened enough.

  • Sadly, I've heard a lot of usages I couldn't recommend. tchrist spells out ELU policy on answers: 'We are looking for more substantial answers with documented references, not merely [statements that may possibly be no more than] personal opinion. Those are just comments, not answers.' Dec 25, 2015 at 9:55

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