On Cloud Nine: Origin


One commonly cited origin of the phrase “on cloud nine”  is from the classifications of clouds defined by the US Weather Bureau in the 1950s.  “Cloud Nine” describes the fluffy cumulonimbus type that are considered so attractive. This explanation seems plausible – but further investigation leads to a different origin.

Early references originate in the mid 20th century USA.  Albin Pollock’s 1935 directory of slang, The Underworld Speaks cites: “Cloud eight, befuddled on account of drinking too much liquor.”  Another instance is found in The Oxnard Press-Courier, August 1946: “I think he has thought of everything, unless the authorities pull something new on him out of cloud nine.  In April 1952,  The San Mateo Times mentions “Cloud Seven”: “Mantovani’s skilled use of reeds and strings puts this disc way up on Cloud Seven.”

The early favourite was “cloud seven” and many of the oldest citations use that form, eg. The Dictionary of American Slang, 1960, which was the first printed definition of the term  “Cloud seven – completely happy, perfectly satisfied; in a euphoric state.”

Since the 1980s, “cloud nine” has become the most commonly used.  Read more…