Meteorologists stick to precise language when describing the weather, assigning particular meaning to previously vague expressions such as “wintry showers”. This preserves strict accuracy, but misses out on some of the more vividly descriptive terms traditionally used to describe winter conditions.
“Foxy” weather is misleading, and is applied when the day looks sunny and warm but is actually bitterly cold. “Gleamy” is more optimistic, noting occasional intervals of sunshine amid the gloom. “Hunch-weather” is wind and rain that makes you hunch over.
Scots provide many colourful terms for bad weather. To “flench”, for example, means to give a deceitful promise of improvement, which mornings sometimes seem to do to at this time of year. The Scots word “jellit” means freezing, which sounds like archaic English word “gelid” but sharper. “Snell” is a Scots term for weather so cold it bites down to the bone, believed to come from the old English word for quick, which came to include acute or sharp.
Not everything wintry is unpleasant. Scots also give us “Watergaw”, a small section of a rainbow rather than a full sky-spanning bow, appearing when there is a chink of sunlight between clouds. And one English word describes a particular winter joy: “apricity”, the pleasant feeling of the sun’s warmth on a cold day.