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I have this sentence:

The heavy downfall (rain and hail) last night caused severe damage to the surrounding area.

Does downfall mean the same as rainfall or precipitation in this context?

  • 'Precipitation' is in a very formal register. Neither it nor 'rainfall' really suggest a limited period of heavy rain, which 'downfall' does. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 18 '18 at 15:48
  • So, downfall can be used in this context? – DeBedenHasen Jun 18 '18 at 15:49
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    Downfall would apply better to human drama IMHO; in the UK downpour would be a better term. – Oliver Mason Jun 18 '18 at 15:50
  • I'm talking US. Generally. – DeBedenHasen Jun 18 '18 at 15:50
  • I'm a meteorologist by trade, and I would not use "downfall" in DeBedenHasen's example. "Downpour" is associated with rain--liquid precipitation--not including hail. I would use either "precipitation" or "rain and hail". I might even recast the sentence "Last night's heavy rain and hail caused damage in [not to] the surrounding area." – tautophile Jun 18 '18 at 17:17
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Looking at a dictionary definition, downfall has the following meanings:

  1. descent to a lower position or standing; overthrow; ruin.
  2. something causing ruin, failure, etc.: Liquor was his downfall.
  3. a fall, as of rain, snow, or the like, often sudden or heavy.

All usage examples are from news article headlines, which understandably favour the first two meanings. It is also well-known from the eponymous film about the end of Hitler's Third Reich.

In the same dictionary, downpour only has one meaning: "a heavy, drenching rain."

So while downfall can mean rain, downpour might be more obviously rain-related.

  • That's the one. So I won't have to change and re-submit the report to correct downfall. It isn't obvious but possible to use. Thanks. – DeBedenHasen Jun 18 '18 at 16:00
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I think it would be understood, but it would be more natural to use either rainfall or downpour: Last night's heavy downpour caused severe damage to the the surrounding area.

  • Does "downpour" include not only rain but hail? Reference? – GEdgar Jun 18 '18 at 15:56

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