There’s a Storm Coming

In a few hours apparently, here in the west of Ireland. It’s certainly already quite windy, and while people are of course concerned about the danger and the possibility of property damage, there’s also something unavoidably exciting about a storm.

Nature’s wild and furious during a storm, and that reminds us just how powerful the world around us is, and how vulnerable and insignificant we really are. It’s no wonder storms have always been employed metaphorically to represent the messiness and chaos of life. Of course there are many types of storm, with many interesting names, so it’s important to know what they mean so you can choose the right one.

There are the obvious ones that are simple compound nouns like rainstorm, hailstorm etc. Then you’ve got more curious names like blizzard, which is of course a snowstorm. Sadly the origins of the word are unknown, though it’s believed to be related to blaze. Because a blizzard is so hot, obviously.

And there’s a tempest, which is a violent, windy storm, or as it’s better known, a storm. Tempest is a really interesting word actually. It comes indirectly from the Latin tempestas, which could mean storm, commotion, weather, season, occasion, or time, related to the Latin word tempus (time, season). This is a great example of meaning shifting over time until there’s no apparent link between a word and its original source. The word originally referred to any period of time, before specifically coming to refer to seasons, which then shifted to weather (because it changes with the seasons), to storm.

Even today, Romance languages often use words related to time to refer to the weather, like temps in French, or tempo in Italian.

Tornado is another interesting word, meaning turned or twisted in Spanish. And unlike most storms, it has an opposite! That’s a derecho, coming from the Spanish for straight or direct, because they’re composed of straight-line winds.

Take care if you’re out in the storm tonight or tomorrow!

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