Mizzle is a dialect word for drizzle.

Where and how often is it used?

Please read the sentence I have found:

There's mizzling and there's drizzle.

As far as I know, mizzle and drizzle mean the same thing - a misty rain. But in the sentence above the two concepts are somehow contrasted. Does the sentence make sense to you? Do you feel any difference between drizzle and mizzle?

  • 5
    As an Australian I have never once heard the word "mizzle" in my entire life and I would have had absolutely no clue what it meant before today. This is why I need to travel. – Clonkex Sep 13 at 4:15
  • 4
    we in the United Kingdom have many, many words for rain – Joseph Rogers Sep 13 at 10:50
  • Sounds like it might a malamanteau (xkcd.com/739) of mist and drizzle. – cobaltduck Sep 13 at 17:40
  • 1
    @JosephRogers - Like being an Eskimo, but far more miserable. – Richard Sep 13 at 20:48
  • @Richard Exactly! lol – Joseph Rogers Sep 14 at 8:40
up vote 7 down vote accepted

According to Weather Online, it is used in some places in the UK:

Mizzle is a term used in Devon and Cornwall for a combination of fine drenching drizzle or extremely fine rain and thick, heavy saturating mist or fog.

(It may be used elsewhere; dictionaries such as the OED mark it as "regional (Brit. and N. Amer.)" but don't mention any specifics.)

The OED puts it in Frequency Band 2, which means the word occurs "fewer than 0.01 times per million words in typical modern English usage".

  • 1
    It is also used in the North of England - particularly along the east coast, where it happens quite often. The (imported foreign?) term "haar" now seems to be used in standard English, for example BBC weather forecasts. – alephzero Sep 13 at 10:48
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    In my part of Scotland, "mizzle" is a little less dreich than "drizzle". – Laconic Droid Sep 13 at 13:46
  • @alephzero, my perception is that "haar" has spread along (unsurprisingly) the North Sea coast, possibly beginning in Aberdeen. Wiktionary claims that it's derived from Dutch haere, and Wikipedia lists it as "Scottish English", but it seems to be making inroads into NE England (the word, I mean - I guess the haar's been visiting for years). – Toby Speight Sep 13 at 16:31

'Mizzle' is not, exactly, the same as 'drizzle'. As the word implies, it is mist that is lightly precipitating into droplets, but the droplets are small enough to remain airborne and do not fall as drizzle.

The progression is seen in a reference quote in the OED :

1806 J. Beresford Miseries Human Life I. vi. 111 A mist, which successively becomes a mizzle, a drizzle, a shower, a rain, a torrent

The Urban Dictionary confirms this :

A Devonshire word describing weather that is more than mist but not quite drizzle. Annoying weather that on the surface doesn't deserve a brollie or jacket but after 30minutes you are soaked

The word is current, neither archaic nor pure dialect :

It wasn’t a surprise to the weather pessimists among us that the one day you need clear, calm weather to go and enjoy 85km around the Yorkshire Dales, you get the tail end of a tropical storm, with all-day mizzle and winds.

SingleTrackWorld - August 20, 2018.

  • 4
    +1 "'Mizzle' is not, exactly, the same as 'drizzle'". They are, to me (Western England), quite distinct with mizzle being finer drops than drizzle but not as fine as those that form mist or fog. The drops tend to hang in the air more than those in a drizzle that fall more quickly but not as much as those that form a mist. – uɐɪ Sep 13 at 8:51
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    Also bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2004/01_january/06/… "In 1983, Francis Wilson joined the weather team and presented his reports using new terminology which he personalised – terms such as "mizzle" (mist and drizzle) and "thorms" (thunder storms)" for when it ceased being only regional, and also claims to be a separate coinage. – Pete Kirkham Sep 13 at 11:34
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    You should state that you are a British English speaker, while the other two answers are from American English speakers. Or not seeing as I've done it for you :) – Mari-Lou A Sep 13 at 11:34
  • As you say @Mari-LouA - you have kindly done it for me. Thank you. – Nigel J Sep 13 at 12:46
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    I'm not sure how you define "pure dialect," but I've certainly never heard of the word here in America. – Azor Ahai Sep 13 at 20:12

Nearly all dictionaries I've checked don't make a distinction between the two with the exception of one, maybe two. In one case the distinction only exists in the noun definition but is lost in the verb definition. Three of the dictionaries list "mizzle" as (dialectal/regional).

American Heritage Dictionary
Drizzle:
A fine, gentle, misty rain.
Mizzle:
A mistlike rain; a drizzle.

Collins English Dictionary
Drizzle:
(Physical Geography) very light rain, specifically consisting of droplets less than 0.5 mm in diameter
Mizzle:
(Physical Geography) a dialect word for drizzle

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Drizzle:
1.a fine misty rain
Mizzle:
to rain in very fine drops : drizzle

Oxford Living Dictionaries
Drizzle:
1.(mass noun) Light rain falling in very fine drops.
Mizzle:
(mass noun)(dialect) Light rain; drizzle.

Cambridge Dictionary
Drizzle:
rain in very small, light drops
Mizzle:
rain made of many very small drops

Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary
Drizzle:
a very light rain.
Mizzle:
a misty drizzle. (Differs with inclusion of adjective "misty", however the distinction is lost in the verb definition)

Wiktionary.org
Drizzle:
Light rain.
Mizzle:
misty rain or drizzle (Note for verb: "now regional, Britain, Canada, US")

Also the Wikipedia search term "mizzle" redirects to the "drizzle" article. It's possible that in some regions "mizzle" may mean mistier variant of "drizzle", but this difference isn't really reflected in the dictionaries. However there's a good reason to believe that "mizzle" is a regional/dialectal version of "drizzle".

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