Dog Days

by Joanne Mason on August 26, 2015

Reva

Reva appears in a constellation of Christmas lights. Photo by Laurie Jameson

I just heard that it’s National Dog Day!  To celebrate, let’s talk about the dog days of summer.

Usually, the dog days are at summer’s peak, when it’s too hot to do anything except lounge around with a glass of iced tea nearby.  You feel sluggish and unmotivated.  Okay, well, I feel sluggish and unmotivated.

Example 1

Olivia didn’t want to have her outdoor wedding during the dog days of August. 

Example 2

Tyler felt too lazy to look for a job during the dog days. 

Dog days has more to do with astronomy than our canine pals, however.  The story begins with the star Sirius, often called the “dog star” because it’s part of the Canis Major (“the greater dog”) constellation. (Sirius is the dog’s nose.)  The ancient Greeks and Romans noticed that when Sirius rose before the sun, the hottest days of the year had arrived.

These days are typically from July 3 to August 11 in the United States, but they are subject to change.  In fact, some astronomers believe that thousands of years from now, the dog days will occur in the winter.

The phrase was eventually translated from Latin to English during the 1500s.  The Oxford English Dictionary puts the first use of dog days in 1538.  Early on, the phrase had a more ominous slant that suggested bad things to come.  Now, it’s mainly used for those lazy summer days.

What do you think of the dog days?

Learn more:

Why Do We Call Them the ‘Dog Days’ of Summer? (National Geographic)

Sirius: Brightest Star in Earth’s Night Sky (Space.com)

Why are they called the “dog days” of summer? (History.com)

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