I learned that in nautical English, as used in weather forecasts* transmitted by maritime radio services, if the wind is indicated veering, this has the meaning the direction where it comes from will turn clockwise. Unluckily, there was no example for wind turning counterclockwise. Looking into dictionaries and dictionary sites, I only found veering with the meaning of turning, without an implication of direction. (Is the implied direction limited to nautical usage?)

What word or expression is typically used in maritime weather forecasts to indicate wind turning counter-clockwise? Is there an antonym to veering?

  • I'd say backing. Shouldn't you ask this on earthscience.stackexchange.com – Boondoggle Jan 23 '18 at 12:26
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    I will offer the observation that this is the first time I've ever heard this definition, and the meaning would be unknown to the vast majority of landlubbers. – Hot Licks Jan 23 '18 at 13:21
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    Interestingly, the OED indicates that this sense (“Of the wind: To change gradually; to pass by degrees from one point to another, spec. in the direction of the sun's course”) is the earliest recorded sense of the verb veer, attested from 1582. The more general sense of turning or changing course came later. Though this is actually an interesting bit of information (I didn’t know this sense of the verb at all either), the question is unfortunately off topic here, since a simple dictionary lookup (1.2) would have told you the answer. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 23 '18 at 18:23
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - This morphing of definitions is not unlike many other nautical terms. – Hot Licks Jan 23 '18 at 19:17
  • @HotLicks - I was about to click this HNQ, but veered to another question...but then wondered what the antonym of veered (which I've always just understood as essentially 'to go offcourse') would be...needless to say, I learned a new definition! – BruceWayne Jan 23 '18 at 23:39

The anticlockwise counterpart of the verb veer is, prosaically enough, back.

back verb (used without object) ... 30. Nautical. (of wind) to change direction counterclockwise (opposed to veer ).


However, Collins adds a caveat concerning deixis:

back v 37. (Physical Geography) (intr) (of the wind) to change direction in an anticlockwise direction in the northern hemisphere and a clockwise direction in the southern.

From an ITV weather / shipping forecast:

Wind: Westerly fresh F5 to strong F7, locally southerly or variable light F2 to moderate F4 in Alderney, becoming northerly moderate F4 to fresh F5 by noon, backing northwest in the afternoon, backing southwest to south light F3 to moderate ...

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    Can't find a reference immediately, but there's some disagreement about whether the directions of veering and backing are reversed in the southern hemisphere. The disagreement is between meteorologists, to whom a veer always is in the direction of Coriolis force (and a backing is the other way), and sailors, to whom a veer is always in the clockwise direction (and backing is always counterclockwise). – Beanluc Jan 24 '18 at 0:17
  • @Beanluc Now why doesn't that surprise me. It also appals me: lives could be at risk because of this lamentable lack of standardisation (if true). – Edwin Ashworth Jan 24 '18 at 23:36
  • Actually, your two examples show the discrepancy. One of them says counterclockwise in nautical context, the other says it depends which hemisphere, in physical geography context. – Beanluc Jan 25 '18 at 18:00
  • And the inexcusable fault of the Dictionary.com definition is not to point out that there is another equally valid interpretation. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 '18 at 20:12

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