What Are the Dog Days of Summer?

Dog on pool raft with text: "What are the dog days of summer?"

The dog days of summer have descended upon us. It’s the same story every year: days that never seem to end, oppressive heat that sticks around for hours after the sun goes down, and inescapable fatigue that gives you that 2 o’clock feeling from the moment you wake up until your head hits the pillow.  In the days before air conditioning, it felt like the entire nation needed to hibernate as the days grew long and ho

Origin of the Dog Days of Summer

Everyone references the dog days when summer rolls around, but it’s rare that anyone actually looks into the origin of the phrase. There is a silent assumption that the words are a reference to the way the heat puts pressure on dogs. A quick walk down the street would seem to confirm this theory, since there won’t be a dog in sight that’s not sprawled in the shade, tongue flared wide and panting heavily.

The phrase can actually be traced back to Greek and Roman astronomy, and completely unrelated to dogs (the real kind, at least) and only loosely related to hot weather.

In ancient times, Greek astronomers noticed that for about a month and a half, Sirius, the nose of Canis Major, the dog constellation, rose above the horizon before or concurrently with the sun. This astronomical event coincided with the hottest days of the Greek summer and the Greek war season, during which city-states would wage campaigns against each other just before the harvest season in hopes of disrupting food supplies. In time, the dog days became synonymous with oppressive heat and both natural and man-made catastrophes.

The phrase was translated from Latin to English about 500 years ago and has changed since the original translation. The time of year the Greeks called the dog days no longer corresponds to the rise and fall of Sirius, since the location of Earth relative to constellations changes over time. In fact, had Greek society developed 13,000 years earlier or later, we might be referencing the dog days of winter.

Cooling Services You Can Count On

Today, the hottest days of the year don’t always fall in line with the dog days of summer due to ocean currents and regional inconsistencies, but the phrase lives on. When it’s truly sweltering, take the appropriate steps to make sure your air conditioner is running efficiently so you have a cool, comfortable place to escape the dog days of summer. Contact your Aire Serv professionals for expert maintenance and service today.