It's starting to sprinkle. Light rain, drizzle, precipitation.


Senior Member
Russian (Ukraine)
<<This question is taken from another thread that is about the form of verb used in the sentence.
As several have questioned the use of sprinkle in this context, relevant posts have been copied to a new thread, this one.>>

<<...>>And I don't think you mean sprinkle. Spit, perhaps, or drizzle. Sprinkle is what sprinklers do.
This example is taken from a coursebook :)
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  • blue_jewel

    Senior Member
    according to OED:

    sprinkle [1,verb]: the act or an instance of sprinkling; especially : a light rain

    in noun-plural form: small particles of candy used as a topping (as on ice cream) : jimmies (a tiny rod-shaped bits of usually chocolate-flavored candy often sprinkled on ice cream)
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    Senior Member
    To Thomas's point, I believe we may have an AE<>BE distinction. Sprinkle is used frequently in AE to name a light rain.

    I'd like to hear from other BE speakers. Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary gives this as the second meaning:

    noun [C usually singular] (US ALSO sprinkling)
    a very light fall of rain or snow which lasts only a short time
    They do not label this as an AE usage.

    I'm accustomed to the verb as Random House Unabridged describes it: rain slightly (often used impersonally with it as subject): It may sprinkle this evening.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    The first of the three OED citations for this meaning of "to sprinkle" is BrE. But it dates from 1778.

    This looks like another instance of AmE retaining words that BrE loses ;)

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I see it is also in the OED; but two of the three citations are US and all are old. I don't recall ever hearing sprinkle used in respect to rain.

    The sentence "It may sprinkle this evening" sounds comical to me.


    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Yes, just to weigh in on numbers, I haven't heard "to sprinkle" used for rain. Two uses spring to my mind - one is a light watering of the garden and the other is a euphemism for urination, often in a cutesy way "oh don't mind little didums, he does tend to sprinkle everywhere".


    New Member
    well, I wouldn't say "it is going to sprinkle tonight," but when describing current conditions, I frequently say, "it's sprinkling" or "it's drizzling"

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree with Ewie: while the verb to sprinkle isn't used in BE of the weather, we do talk about a sprinkling of rain - maybe even sometimes a sprinkle of rain.

    We do use to sprinkle, often when gardening - I'm going to sprinkle the hostas.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    We do use to sprinkle, often when gardening - I'm going to sprinkle the hostas.
    I expect that will be very good for them. Unfortunately, the first impression I get from this sentence is based on Timpeac's second usage in post #9.

    It's fascinating how sprinkle, especially intransitive sprinkle, has quite different meanings.

    Hmmm, I don't mean intransitive sprinkle, do I?
    Perhaps I do.
    ... sprinkle. Intransitive.
    ... sprinkle water. Transitive.
    ... sprinkle the hostas. ?


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Sprinkle the hostas - transitive.

    It was the Manneken Pis meaning that came first into my mind, too :D

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, I take it back, Panj. I think most people would think if you said I'm going to sprinkle the hostas you'd mean you were going to pee on the hostas, which wouldn't be good for them.

    To avoid misunderstanding we'd probably say:

    I'm going to water the hostas.
    I'm going to put the sprinkler on the lawn.

    I think you do mean it's transitive, Panj. M-W does too.

    P.S. And Loob.


    Senior Member
    AE (US), Spanish (LatAm)
    Another US opinion chiming in:

    I also hear sprinkle often in weather reports.

    I consider "sprinkle" the loose lightly dropping rain. (almost mist-like)
    I consider "drizzle" the light pouring rain; more condensed, less separation between the droplets.

    ...and for the 'kiddie accidents', people where I live tend to use "tinkle" instead of "sprinkle.


    Senior Member
    English English
    if you said I'm going to sprinkle the hostas you'd mean you were going to pee on the hostas, which wouldn't be good for them
    No, but it'd give the slugs something to think about.
    Judica: talking about little kiddies sprinkling also sounds comical to me: it conjures up an image of a child lying face-up in the middle of a lawn, or perhaps marking its territory on the neighbourhood lamp-posts. Tinkle's the word I'd use for that too.
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    Senior Member
    AE, Español

    Ms Missy

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Don't quote me on this ... but here in the tropics where the only two seasons are wet and dry (no spring, winter, autumn, summer), the locals refer to 'sprinkling' as a raincloud just beginning to pass over the area. The rain starts off as a sprinkle, and may intensify into a steady light drizzle, depending on the size of the cloud. Or the rain may disappear completely without any effects. However, a drizzle is more steady & consistent, and calls for an umbrella. For example, after a storm, the rain will slow down to a steady drizzle before it stops completely. In sum, I think a drizzle is a bit more steady and intense than a sprinkle. We rush to get our clothes off the line when it starts to sprinkle, but if it's already drizzling, it's a bit too late to go out to rescue the wash off the line.
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    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    ☛☛Forum Rule #1
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    Check the WordReference dictionaries if available (and scroll down for a list of related threads) or use the forum's search function.​
    Today's thread has been added to the end of the earlier thread on the same topic - which could have been found by looking up any of sprinkle drizzle or drizzle sprinkle in the WR dictionary - as required by forum rule #1.

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