dog days

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See also: dogdays



Calque of Latin diēs caniculārēs (puppy days), a calque of Ancient Greek κυνάδες ἡμέραι (kunádes hēmérai, dog days),[1] from κυνάς (kunás, of or related to dogs), from Κῠ́ων (Kúōn, the Dog) in reference to the star Sirius, which appears in Homeric Greek as "Orion's dog".[2] The return of Sirius to the night sky (its heliacal rising), occurring in antiquity around July 25 (Athens) or 29 (Rome), was considered by the Greeks and Romans to herald what were considered the hottest, least healthy, and least lucky days of summer.[3]



dog days pl (normally plural, singular dog day)

  1. (archaic) The days following the heliacal rising of Sirius, now in early August (Gregorian) at dates varying by latitude.
    Synonym: (archaic) canicular days
  2. The unpleasantly hot days of late summer.
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Ayre Rectified. With a Digression of the Ayre.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970, partition 2, section 2, member 3, page 214:
      Why ſhould thoſe Eteſian and Eaſterne winds blow cōtinually in ſome places, at ſet times, one way ſtill, in the dog dayes only: heere perpetuall drought, there dropping ſhowres; [...]
    • 2013 August 17, "A Rickety Rebound" in The Economist, Vol. 408, No. 8849:
      The dog days of August have often spelled trouble for the world economy.
  3. Any similar period of inactivity, laziness, or stagnation.
    • 1993, Billboard (volume 105, number 24, page 62)
      The two-cassette miniseries, produced by Oliver Stone, arrives in early August, in time to stir the dog days of summer rentals.

Usage notes[edit]

Historically, the dog days have been variously reckoned from the cosmical or heliacal rising of Sirius in Canis Major or Procyon in Canis Minor, all of which vary by latitude and do not occur for most of the Southern Hemisphere.[3] Sirius observes a period of almost exactly 365¼ days between risings, keeping it largely consistent with the Julian but not the Gregorian calendar; nonetheless, its dates occur somewhat later in the year over a span of millennia. These variations have caused the dog days to be reckoned as starting anywhere from 3 July to 15 August and lasting anywhere from 30 to 61 days.[3] Canonical “dog daies” were observed from July 7 to September 5 in the 16th-century English liturgies.[4][5] Modern almanacs sometimes give the days as 3 July to 11 August,[6] ending rather than beginning with the heliacal rising of Sirius.



  1. ^ "dog day" on Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ As κῠ́ων Ὠρίωνος (kúōn Ōríōnos) in its elided accusative form κύν᾽ Ὠρίωνος (kún'Ōríōnos) in Iliad XXII.22.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 dog day, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, launched 2000; “dog days”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  4. ^ The Table and Kalendar...” in The Boke of Common Prayer... (1552), London: Edward Whytchurche.
  5. ^ The Table and Kalendar...” in The Boke of Common Praier... (1559), London: Richard Grafton.
  6. ^ Dog Days Begin” in The Old Farmer's Almanac (2017), Dublin, N.H.: Yankee Publishing.

Further reading[edit]