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Groundhog Day

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noun
February 2, in most parts of the U.S., the day on which, according to legend, the groundhog first emerges from hibernation. If it is a sunny day and the groundhog sees its shadow, six more weeks of wintry weather are predicted.
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Origin of Groundhog Day

An Americanism dating back to 1870–75
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What is Groundhog Day?

Groundhog Day is a minor holiday on February 2 based on the tradition of predicting whether there will be an early spring based on whether a groundhog sees its shadow or not (yes, it is that silly). It’s primarily celebrated by people in the U.S.

Celebration of the day is based in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where a festival is centered around a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil. According to legend, Groundhog Day marks the date on which the groundhog (also known as a woodchuck) comes out of hibernation. When Punxsutawney Phil emerges, observers note whether or not he “sees his shadow.” This basically means that if the day is sunny, the prediction will be for another six weeks of winter weather. If the day is cloudy, the prediction is for an early spring.

The proper name of the holiday is Groundhog Day, not Groundhogs Day or Groundhog’s Day.

Groundhog Day is a lighthearted holiday that’s typically used just as an excuse for some fun and festivities, when it’s observed at all. For most people in the U.S., it’s just a funny tradition that they hear about on February 2 every year.

However, the holiday is thought to have been made more popular by the 1993 film Groundhog Day. The movie is about a TV weatherman (played by Bill Murray) who, while visiting Punxsutawney to cover the Groundhog Day festivities, gets stuck in some kind of time loop that causes him to experience Groundhog Day over and over again. This movie led to the use of the term Groundhog Day to refer to such a time loop or to the experience of every day feeling the same.

Example: Honestly, this job is Groundhog Day—I do the same thing every single day!

Where does Groundhog Day come from?

The name of Groundhog Day dates back to at least the 1870s. The day has been celebrated in Punxsutawney since the 1880s, but similar customs are even older.

The central tradition of Groundhog Day—basing predictions about future weather on the weather of the day—is thought to be based on folklore surrounding the Christian holiday of Candlemas. According to tradition, if Candlemas fell on a cloudy day, spring would come early. If it was sunny, winter would last longer. It was in Germany that the element of an animal was added—except it was originally a hedgehog. German immigrants are thought to have brought the tradition to the U.S., swapping the hedgehog for a groundhog.

 

Find all the facts you ever wanted about Groundhog Day by reading our article on all the conversations surrounding the holiday.

Did you know ... ?

What are some words that share a root or word element with Groundhog Day

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing Groundhog Day?

How is Groundhog Day used in real life?

Groundhog Day is a silly minor holiday that’s not widely observed in any special way. Most people associate the day with the movie, which helped to make the holiday more popular.

 

Try using Groundhog Day!

True or False?

If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, it means spring will come early.

How to use Groundhog Day in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

noun
(in the US and Canada) February 2nd, when, according to tradition, the groundhog emerges from hibernation; if it sees its shadow, it returns to its burrow for six weeks as a sunny day indicates a late spring, while a cloudy day would mean an early spring
a situation in which events are or appear to be continually repeated

Word Origin for Groundhog Day

C20: sense 2 from the 1993 film Groundhog Day, in which the lead character experiences the same day repeatedly
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

February 2. According to the legend of Groundhog Day, if a groundhog (a woodchuck) comes out of his hole on that day and sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter will follow. If no shadow appears, there will be an early spring.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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