precipitation in the form of ice pellets created by the freezing of rain as it falls (distinguished from hail2).
Chiefly British. a mixture of rain and snow.

verb (used without object)

to send down sleet.
to fall as or like sleet.

Origin of sleet

1250–1300; (noun) Middle English slete; akin to Low German slote, German Schlossen hail; (v.) Middle English sleten, derivative of the noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sleet

Contemporary Examples of sleet

Historical Examples of sleet

  • In England sleet nearly always means a mixture of snow and rain.


    Charles Fitzhugh Talman

  • Then the hot winds come up from the Gulf, and sleet melts, and windows are opened.

    The Crisis, Complete

    Winston Churchill

  • It was bitter cold, and the sleet and snow drove sharply in the faces of the troops.

    Hero Tales From American History

    Henry Cabot Lodge, and Theodore Roosevelt

  • Under Forrest's direction the 9th and 10th were spent in tearing up railroad track encased in snow and sleet, terribly cold work.

  • And the fog moved on against the wind, and with it sleet and rain.

    Eric Brighteyes

    H. Rider Haggard

British Dictionary definitions for sleet



partly melted falling snow or hail or (esp US) partly frozen rain
mainly US the thin coat of ice that forms when sleet or rain freezes on cold surfaces


(intr) to fall as sleet
Derived Formssleety, adjective

Word Origin for sleet

C13: from Germanic; compare Middle Low German slōten hail, Middle High German slōze, German Schlossen hailstones
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

Word Origin and History for sleet

c.1300, slete, either from an unrecorded Old English *slete, *slyte, related to Middle High German sloz, Middle Low German sloten (plural) "hail," from Proto-Germanic *slautjan- (cf. dialectal Norwegian slutr, Danish slud, Swedish sloud "sleet"), from root *slaut-.


early 14c., from sleet (n.). Related: Sleeted; sleeting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for sleet



Precipitation that falls to earth in the form of frozen or partially frozen raindrops, often when the temperature is near the freezing point. Sleet usually leaves the cloud in the form of snow that melts as it passes through warm layers of air during its descent. The raindrops and partially melted snowflakes then freeze in the colder layers nearer the earth before striking the ground as pellets of ice, which usually bounce. By contrast,hail forms by the accumulation of layers of ice on the hailstone as it moves up and down in the cloud, and hailstones can become much larger than sleet pellets. The word sleet is also used informally to describe a mixture of snow, sleet, and rain.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.