French phrase of the day: Il pleut comme vache qui pisse

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French phrase of the day: Il pleut comme vache qui pisse
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

The perfect phrase for complaining bitterly about wet weather.


Why do I need to know il pleut comme vache qui pisse?

Because it’s a nice northern expression, used liberally by drenched Frenchmen during the rainy season in Brittany (which lasts for about 11 months of the year, so the story goes).

What does it mean?

Il pleut comme vache qui pisse - roughly pronounced as eel-plur-com-vash-key-pees- directly translates as “it’s raining like a pissing cow”. This phrase is therefore used to describe - or more aptly, complain about - very heavy or oppressive rainfall.

For obvious reasons, the word pisse (piss) may make this saying inappropriate to use on a work call, but it’s right at home in everyday conversation with friends or family members.

You will most likely hear this expression during a particularly torrential downpour of rain - when the buckets of water falling from the sky may feel like a Breton cow is relieving itself upon you.

French clichés - Does it really rain all the time in Brittany?

Anglophones may find that this is a convenient substitute for the colloquial “it’s raining cats and dogs” or the slightly more vulgar "it's pissing down" with the added bonus of surprising your companions with your colourful vocabulary.


Use it like this

Zut, il pleut comme vache qui pisse ! - Heck, it’s raining like a pissing cow!

On allait se promener hier, mais il pleuvait comme vache qui pisse - We were going to go for a walk yesterday, but it was pissing down.

Je ne vais pas à la plage demain car je suis sûre qu’il va pleuvoir comme vache qui pisse - I’m not going to the beach tomorrow because I’m sure it will chuck down


Il pleut des cordes - it’s raining ropes (the French equivalent of 'raining cats and dogs')

Il pleut des hallebards - this is infrequently used and pretty archaic but it means that it's raining halberds - a type of long medieval battleaxe - if you want to add some history to your expressions.


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Iain 2023/11/16 11:21
A closer English equivalent of 'Raining Ropes' come from NE Lancashire (another region famed for precipitation) where people say "It's coming down in stair rods".
[email protected] 2020/11/03 16:19
When I was growing up in Washington State in the ‘60’s, the expression was <br />“It’s raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock”

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