Dog Days of Summer Meaning: Exploring the Origins and Significance of This Phrase

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: October 10, 2023
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You might think that a fun hotdog cookout would be ideal during the dog days of summer. It would make quite the theme! But the reality is that the dog days of summer are the kind that test your tolerance for heat and discomfort. While a hot dog might fill your belly, the sticky feeling and irritability you get from being outdoors on sweltering days may just drive you up a wall. Some believe that during the dog days of summer, crazy things happen (like snakes going blind). These myths have been debunked, however. So, what is the meaning of “dog days of summer?” Let’s explore the origins and significance of this phrase!

Dog Days of Summer Meaning

The meaning of “dog days of summer” today is different than when it originated. Today, it just means that it is a muggy, hot, and uncomfortable period of the summer. Out in nature, it can be very challenging to stay cool. Being outdoors during sweltering heat without planning ahead is a recipe for disaster. The dog days are summer are those you’d rather skip and stay inside sipping on a cool beverage while the air conditioning blasts through the vents in your home. Even a dip in the pool isn’t enticing during the dog days of summer!

yellow pool floats in a fleshing blue swimming pool.

The pool is usually inviting during the summer (but not so much during the dog days of summer!)

©StacieStauffSmith Photos/Shutterstock.com

Origins of Dog Days of Summer

This saying goes back hundreds of years to the ancient Roman and Greek times. The star Sirius was the “Dog Star” as it made up the shape of a dog’s nose in the larger constellation. Just like clockwork, Sirius would appear near the end of July year after year and that was the beginning of the warmest season. This period was known as the “days of the dog star.” Sirius comes from seírios, an ancient Greek word that means “scorching.”

Originally, this period was only supposed to be from July 3rd to August 11th. In the olden days, this season was of drought, fever, catastrophe, unrest, and bad luck. The dogs (along with people) were driven absolutely insane by the intense heat. The saying is not nearly as dramatic as it once was. The dog days of summer are just those when you need to remain extra hydrated and when you can’t wait to get indoors in an artificially cooled environment.

Significance of Dog Days of Summer

According to the ancient Greeks and Romans, Sirius influenced or triggered the hot weather to start. Sirius is the brightest star in the constellation, and in Greek, it means “Greater Dog.” It was always associated with heatwaves and without the modern luxury of air conditioning, it must have brought on not only discomfort but disease, especially where water was scarce. Unfortunately for those living during these times, it frequently was! The dog days of summer were a period to dread.

Canis Major constellation on a starry sky illustration

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed Sirius triggered hot weather.

©libre de droit/iStock via Getty Images

Real-Life Examples of When to Use This Phrase

Nowadays, the saying doesn’t carry such a heavy meaning and can be used in various ways. For example:

  • “I can’t wait for the dog days of summer to end!”

Someone who expresses this sentiment is simply saying they’re tired of not being able to enjoy the summer outdoors due to excessively hot temperatures. They’re looking forward to cooler days when they can enjoy the great outdoors yet again.

  • “To avoid the dog’s day heat, let’s plan the event late in the evening.”

In this example, someone is being proactive, considering the day’s temperatures. Typically, summer heat is at its peak during the day and later in the evening, the weather cools a bit, allowing those who wish to go outdoors an opportunity to do so.

  • “Let’s spend the day by the river in the mid-morning to skip the worst part of the sweltering dog day of summer.”

This is yet another proactive example. The person is considering the cooler part of the day before the hottest period of the day. Even when the weather is at its hottest, there are still some shifts in the morning and in the evening when being outdoors is more tolerable.

  • “Get ready for the dog days of summer as business will be slow.”

In some industries, excessively hot days mean fewer people are out and about as customers. For example, restaurants with outdoor seating may notice a dip in sales when people refuse to be seated in the outdoor areas.

  • “The dog days of summer are cutting into soccer practice.”

If the weather is much too hot, sports practices and events may need to be postponed to protect the well-being of the players.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © EugeneEdge/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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