The term Cloud 9 refers to a state of perfect happiness or ecstasy. It is often used in the phrase “on cloud nine”. The Oxford English Dictionary compares it with the Seventh Heaven, the highest level of heaven.
The expression derives from the terminology used by the United States Weather Bureau. Clouds are divided into classes and each class is nine types. Cloud nine is cumulonimbus, a cumulus cloud of great vertical extent, topped with shapes of mountains or towers
A cloud is a hydrometeor consisting of minute particles of liquid water or ice, or of both, suspended in the atmosphere and usually not touching the ground. It may also include larger particles of liquid water or ice, as well as non-aqueous liquid or solid particles such as those present in fumes, smoke, or dust.
A cumulonimbus is a dense, towering vertical cloud, typically forming from water vapor condensing in the lower troposphere that builds upward carried by powerful buoyant air currents.
Above the lower portions of the cumulonimbus, the water vapor becomes ice crystals, such as snow and graupel, the interaction of which can lead to hail and to lightning formation, respectively. When occurring as a thunderstorm these clouds may be referred to as thunderheads.
Cumulonimbus can form alone, in clusters, or along squall lines. These clouds are capable of producing lightning and other dangerous severe weather, such as tornadoes, hazardous winds, and large hailstones.
Other people derive it from the ninth circle of heaven in Dante’s Divine Comedy (i.e. the nearest to God). In Albin Pollock’s directory of slang, The Underworld Speaks, 1935, he mentions Cloud 8. In The Oxnard Press-Courier, August 1946, they reference Cloud 9. In The San Mateo Times, April 1952 there is a mention of Cloud 7, and Ross’s Hustlers, 1956, mentions Cloud 39. 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 or so, ‘cloud nine’ has become predominant. That has probably been influenced by the use of ‘cloud nine’ in popular music – George Harrison adopted the term as the title of his 1987 album and, more notably, The Temptations ‘psychedelic soul’ album of the same name, in 1969.
- Hydrometeors consist of liquid or solid water particles. They may be suspended in the atmosphere, fall through the atmosphere, be blown by the wind from the Earth’s surface or be deposited on other objects. Snow or water on the ground is, by convention, not considered a hydrometer. [Back]