Why Do We Call Them
the 'Dog Days' of Summer?
It doesn't have
anything to do
lying around in the heat,
comes from ancient
about a star.
By Becky Little, National Geographic
The ancient Greeks thought of the
constellation Canis Major as a dog
Lepus, the hare.
The star Sirius is the dog’s
the Greeks called it the “dog star.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANN RONAN
LOOKING FOR SOME COOL SUMMER STUFF?
The “dog days,” I always
thought, were those summer days
so devastatingly hot that even dogs would lie around on
Many people today use the phrase to mean something like
but originally, the phrase actually had nothing to do
or even with the lazy days of summer. Instead, it turns
the dog days refer to the dog star, Sirius, and its
in the heavens.
To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around
day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the
sun, in late July.
They referred to these days as the
hottest time of the year,
a period that could bring
fever, or even catastrophe.
“If you go back even as far as Homer, The Iliad, it’s
Sirius as Orion’s dog rising, and it describes the star
with war and disaster,” said Jay B. Holberg,
Sirius: Brightest Diamond
in the Night Sky
and senior research scientist at the
University of Arizona
& Planetary Laboratory. “All throughout
Greek and Roman
you found these things.”
The phrase “dog days” was translated from Latin to
about 500 years ago. Since then, it has taken on new
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