Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


traditional stories, sayings, and beliefs from a particular region or community

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun folklore is a combination of the nouns ‘folk’ meaning people and ‘lore’, which means knowledge. It was first used in the mid 19th century.


Britons of a superstitious turn of mind may be frequently casting their eyes heavenwards today. Why? because today is St Swithin’s (or Swithun’s) Day and an ancient piece of folklore states that if it rains on this day it will rain for forty days afterwards. You can read more about the origins of this traditional belief here. There is a great deal of weather-related folklore, dating from the time before accurate forecasts based on satellite images and computer modelling gave us a pretty good idea what the weather is going to be like for several days to come. Many weather-related beliefs have some basis in observation but most, including this one, do not withstand detailed examination: it is a fact that it has never rained for forty successive days in the UK since weather records began, nor have there ever been forty successive days without rain. Spoiler: the forecast for the day predicts patchy light rain and drizzle over many parts of the country.


St. Swithun’s Day, if thou dost rain, 
for forty days it will remain; 
St. Swithun’s Day, if thou be fair
, for forty days ’twill rain nae mair [no more].
(traditional saying)

Related words

tradition, old wives’ tale, saying, saw

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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