Origin of Right As Rain

right as rain

Ever wonder where the phrase ‘right as rain’ comes from?

In English the phrase implies that everything is satisfactory, usually applied to good health. The phrase is often used as a contrast: He was quite ill last week but he’s right as rain now.

Like many common English phrases, its origin isn’t clear. It was in use as far back as the 1870’s:

‘… Is all quiet outside’? ‘Right as rain,’ replied Christopher, pushing his head beyond the door to listen.

The use of the word right in the phrase is self-explanatory. Right implies correctness, as in ‘everything is all right.’

But why rain?

Given the phrase originated in England, it’s tempting to think it’s a pun on the fact that rain is commonplace. While the sun might come out for a while, things eventually return to the normal rainy state in England. In other words, it returns to being right as rain.

It’s an amusing explanation but probably not right…

Long before right as rain became popular there were many other variants. Right as an adamant is from the 1400’s; right as my leg and right as a gun appeared in the 1600’s. Published in 1837, Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers uses right as a trivet:

‘Oh,’ said Mr. Winkle the elder, looking rather grimly at Bob. ‘I hope you are well, sir.’ ‘Right as a trivet, sir,’ replied Bob Sawyer.

Right as ninepence, right as a book, right as nails, and right as the bank have all also been in use. And none of these make much sense either.

While right as rain is likely the latecomer to the group, I suspect it became the surviving variant because of the pleasing alliteration. English is littered with alliteration in phrases, many of which similarly make little sense. Fit as a fiddle, get your goat, and pleased as punch are all excellent examples.

Whatever its true origin, right as rain is a hopeful phrase. Especially here in drought prone California.


3 Responses to Origin of Right As Rain

  1. Rajiv Nema January 4, 2021 at 12:06 am #

    Very interesting. I haven’t heard this phrase. But like most of the new words/phrases I come to know if, I hear them again within a week…

  2. Graham D October 30, 2022 at 2:24 am #

    It may be the the word ‘right’ we should look at. If we consider ‘wheelwright’, ‘shipwright’, ‘cartwright’ etc, then ‘wright as rain’ would mean that it’s calm with no wind, with rain falling straight (wright therefore meaning straight) ?

  3. jaybo that eniggma (@jaybotheeniggma) April 2, 2023 at 10:23 am #

    “Right” itself also means straight up, perpendicular, standing. Rain, as Graham D mentioned, falls straight down when air is calm. From ill and laying or hobbling (river, puddle) to well and standing straight up like rain might.

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