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Yep, “snain.” I just saw that word for the first time. It’s a mixture of snow and rain occuring at temperatures just above freezing. It’s 36°F here at the moment (vs. 80° yesterday), and that is obviously snain I’m seeing outside.

How have I lived this long (not sayin’ how long) without ever hearing the word?

The best online definition of the word I found offhand is from Chicago’s WGN9. I appreciate their distinguishing snain from sleet, because what’s currently falling from the sky is definitely not sleet. Sleet is icy. Our current precipitation is not.

To save you the click, I’ll quote WGN’s Tom Skilling (I’m betting most of you rarely click on links):

“Snain” is a slang term that has been used to describe a combination of snow and rain falling simultaneously, or snow that has not completely melted and reaches the ground as droplets of slush. Sleet, or ice pellets on the other hand occur when rain falls through a sub-freezing layer of atmosphere that is sufficiently deep enough to allow the raindrops to freeze into beads of ice. Some Chicago-area residents may remember “snain” as a term used on-air by the late John Coleman while a forecaster with ABC-7 in the 1970s. Though officially still considered slang in Canada and the UK as well, “snain” has been submitted to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as well as the OED and Canadian Oxford Dictionary.  

There’s even a petition on to officially change the term “mixed precipitation” to “snain.”

So now you know, if you didn’t already.

15 thoughts on “Snain

  1. In Fargo, N.D. they have “snirt” When the wind blows and it is snowing, it throws the dirt covered snow all over the buildings.

  2. The best I can come up with have nothing to do with actual precipitation – sprummer and sprinter. We have both Downunder. Leave you to work ’em out. [grin]

    1. Hmm, doesn’t that derive from “freezing drizzle”? There’s nothing freezing about this stuff. We’ve been stuck on 35° to 36°F all day. But they say it will be snow tonight, still melting when it hits the ground because it was 80ish the last two days. Spring in Colorado.

  3. Never heard of “snain” before. Understandable that Chicago might be obsess-able over weather, it has the coldest, most unruly weather of anyplace I’ve spent time at. Down here in MO, we’ve had a mild winter, no snain and, thankfully, no ice storms. However, late fall (December) was wicked cold.

    1. The proximity of the mountains does crazy things to our weather. They disrupt weather fronts, wind direction, amount of precipitation. At the very least they add upslope and downslope winds to whatever else might be happening. We had that awful cold too for a couple of days — like 0° daytime and negative numbers at night. Ugh!

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