Word of the Day

weather vane

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an object, often an arrow or a model of a cock, that is fixed to the top of a building and points in the direction that the wind is coming from

Origin and usage

The term weather vane comes from ‘weather’, from the Proto-Germanic ‘wedram’ meaning ‘wind’, and ‘vane’, from the Old English ‘fana’ meaning ‘banner or flag’. In English, weather vane dates back to the mid-15th century.


Weather vane refers to a decorative pointer that is usually mounted to the highest peak on the roof of a building and shows which way the wind is blowing.

A weather vane can be useful in pointing out the direction of the wind, but most weather vanes are used as decoration. Traditional weather vanes are made from metal and feature a rooster with a pointer that has letters marking north, south, east and west. Other popular weather vane designs include arrows, ships and horses.

The earliest weather vanes were invented at approximately the same time in both ancient Greece and China, sometime during the 2nd century BCE. The world’s oldest surviving weather vane is the Gallo di Ramperto at the Museo di Santa Giulia in Brescia, Italy, made in 820 AD.

The world’s largest weather vane is an advertisement in Jerez, Spain, though weather vanes in Michigan in the United States and Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada are also contenders for the title.


“You who travel with the wind, what weather vane shall direct your course?”
(Khalil Gibran)

“Rabbit knows a thing or two and I myself, don’t need a weather vane to tell which way the wind blows.”
(The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)


wind vane, weathercock
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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