AskDefine | Define weathercock

The Collaborative Dictionary

Weathercock \Weath"er*cock`\, v. t. To supply with a weathercock; to serve as a weathercock for. [1913 Webster] Whose blazing wyvern weathercock the spire. --Tennyson. [1913 Webster]
Weathercock \Weath"er*cock`\, n.
A vane, or weather vane; -- so called because originally often in the figure of a cock, turning on the top of a spire with the wind, and showing its direction. "As a wedercok that turneth his face with every wind." --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] Noisy weathercocks rattled and sang of mutation. --Longfellow. [1913 Webster]
Hence, any thing or person that turns easily and frequently; one who veers with every change of current opinion; a fickle, inconstant person. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

weathercock n : weathervane with a vane in the form of a rooster

Moby Thesaurus

April showers, Proteus, Vicar of Bray, anemograph, anemometer, anemometrograph, anemoscope, barometer, chameleon, cloud shapes, cock, feeler, formalist, kaleidoscope, mercury, moon, pilot balloon, probe, quicksilver, random sample, rolling stone, sample, shifting sands, sound, sounder, straw vote, temporizer, the weather, timepleaser, timeserver, trial balloon, trimmer, vane, water, weather vane, wheel of fortune, whirligig, wind cone, wind indicator, wind sock, wind vane, wind-speed indicator



  1. A weather vane in the shape of a cockerel
A weather vane, also called a wind vane, is a movable device attached to an elevated object such as a roof for showing the direction of the wind. Very often these are in the shape of cockerels and are called weather cocks. Arrows are also popular, but a multitude of designs have been used.


The weather vane must be balanced so that half its weight is on either side of its axis, but also designed so that the momenta about the axis of the areas exposed to the wind are unequal. This unequal momentum causes the vane to rotate to minimize the force of the wind on its surface. The design of the vane causes the end with the smallest momentum to turn into the wind, pointing to the source of the wind. Because winds are named from their source direction, the pointer enables the viewer to name the wind easily. Most simple weather vanes have directional markers beneath the pointer, aligned with the geographic directions. The pointer must be able to move freely on its axis. Weather cocks, especially those with fanciful shapes, do not always show the real direction of a very gentle wind. This is because the figures do not achieve the design balance required in a weather vane: an unequal surface area but balanced in weight.
To obtain an accurate reading, the weather vane must be located well above the ground and away from buildings, trees, and other objects which interfere with the true wind direction. Changing wind direction can be meaningful when coordinated with other apparent sky conditions, enabling the user to make simple short range forecasts.


Early weather vanes had very ornamental pointers, but modern wind vanes are usually simple arrows that dispense with the directionals because the instrument is connected to a remote reading station. Also modern wind vanes are mounted with an anemometer, a device that measures wind speed. Co-locating both instruments allows them to use the same axis (a vertical rod). Weather stations of variable quality may be purchased, and these include wind vanes along with several other instruments with dials that can be read comfortably inside a home or office. Combining a propeller for wind speed and a tail for wind direction on the same axis is an aerovane, for accurate, precise measurements from a single instrument.
Another wind direction device is the windsock used at airports to show wind direction and strength. The wind fills the sock and makes it blow away from the prevailing wind. Strong winds make the sock point almost horizontally, while light airs allow the sock to hang limply. Because of its size, the windsock can often be seen from the air as well as the ground. Even the most technologically-advanced airports still use windsocks.
According to the Guinness World Records, the world's largest weather vane is located in Jerez, Spain. A challenger for the title of world's largest weather vane is located in Whitehorse, Yukon. The weather vane is a retired Douglas DC-3 atop a swiveling support. Located beside Whitehorse International Airport, the weather vane is used mainly by pilots to determine wind direction. The weather vane only requires a 5 km/hour wind to rotate.
In 1840 Grand National one of the competitors in the Grand National Steeplechase was named Weathercock. The horse was a totally unconsidered outsider who failed to complete the first of two circuits of the course.0____0

Slang term

The term "weathervane" is also a slang word for a politician who has frequent changes of opinion. The National Assembly of Quebec has banned use of this slang term as a slur after its use by members of the legislature.
The word 'vane' comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'fane' meaning 'flag'.Originally the people used flags to show the direction of the wind.



Further reading

  • A.B & W.T. Westervelt, American Antique Weather Vanes: The Complete Illustrated Westervelt Catalog of 1883. New York: Dover, 1982
  • American Folk Art from the Shelburne Museum in Vermont (Catalog of the) Albright-knox Art Gallery,. Buffalo, NY, 1965 pp.20, 23-28
  • Bishop, Robert Charles, A Gallery of American Weather Vanes and Whirligigs, New York: Dutton, 1981 or New York: Bonanza Books, Distributed by Crown, 1984, c.1981
  • Buchert, Ilse., Weathercocks and Weather Creatures: some examples of early American folk art from the collection of the Shelburne Museum. Newport R.I., Third & Elm Press, 1970
  • Burnell, Marcia, Heritage Above, A Tribute to Maine's Tradition of Weather Vanes, Down East Books, Camden Maine, 1991
  • Coolidge, John T.,Weather Vanities, Milton, MA, 1978
  • Crepeau, Pierre, Pointing at the Wind: The Weather Vane Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Canadian Museum c. 1990
  • Fitzgerald, Ken, Weather Vanes and Whirligigs, New York: Clarkson n. Potter, 1967
  • Geismar, Tom & Kahn, Harvey, Spiritually Moving: A Collection of American Folk Art Sculpture, New York: Hacker Art Books, 1998
  • Kaye, Myrna, Yankee Weather Vanes, New York, Dutton, 1975
  • Kennedy Quarterly, Volume XVI, Number 1, 18th and 19th Century Naive Art, New York: Kennedy Galleries, Inc. 1978
  • Kenneth Lynch & Sons, Weather Vanes, Canterbury, Conn, Canterbury Pub. Co., c1971, series title: Architectural handbook series
  • Klamkin, Charles, Weather Vanes: The History, Design and Manufacture of an American Folk Art, New York, Hawthorn Books, 1973
  • Messent, Claude John Wilson, The Weather Vanes of Norfolk & Norwich, Norwich, Fletcher & son, limited, 1937
  • Miller, Steve, The Art of the Weather Vane, Schiffer Publishing, Exton Penn.1984
  • Mockridge, Patricia, Weather Vanes of Great Britain, London: R. Hale, 1990
  • Needham, Albert, English Weather Vanes, These Stories and Legends from Medieval to Modern Times. Haywards Heath, Sussex, C. Clarke, 1953
  • Reaveley, Mabel E., Weather Vane Secrets, Westford, MA. 1984
  • Whirligigs & Weather Vanes: Contemporary Sculpture Whirligigs & Weather Vanes: Contemporary Sculpture. Eugene OR: Visual Arts Resources 1994
weathercock in Catalan: Penell
weathercock in Danish: Vejrhane
weathercock in German: Windrichtungsgeber
weathercock in Spanish: Veleta
weathercock in Persian: بادنما
weathercock in French: Girouette
weathercock in Galician: Cataventos
weathercock in Icelandic: Vindhani
weathercock in Hebrew: שבשבת
weathercock in Lithuanian: Vėtrungė
weathercock in Dutch: Windwijzer
weathercock in Dutch Low Saxon: Wiendwiezer
weathercock in Japanese: 風見鶏
weathercock in Norwegian: Værhane
weathercock in Polish: Wiatrowskaz
weathercock in Portuguese: Cata-vento
weathercock in Russian: Флюгер
weathercock in Finnish: Tuuliviiri
weathercock in Swedish: Vindflöjel
weathercock in Ukrainian: Флюгер
weathercock in Walloon: Rabanair
weathercock in Chinese: 风向标
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