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I'm currently reading a Japanese book on clouds, and am hoping someone can shed some light on the exact meaning of a cloud type called 入道雲。The English translation would be Cumulonimbus, but I'm hoping to get a breakdown on if there is particular meaning in the word 入道雲.

積乱雲 is listed as an alternate word for Cumulonimbus in this book and I'd also love to know what the meaning of that word is if possible. I believe 入道 means priest or monk (and I have no idea how that would relate to this cloud), but I can't find a meaning for 積乱 anywhere. :)

  • I was taught that 入道雲 is called thunderhead in English. Isn't it in use? – broccoli forest Feb 13 '16 at 8:27
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The meteorological term 積乱雲, like its Latin counterpart cumulonimbus, is a combination of 積雲 (cumulus) and 乱雲 (nimbus).[1] The kanji 積 means stacked or accumulated, and 乱 means disordered or in chaos.

入道雲 is a common, non-technical word that refers to cumulonimbus or large cumulus clouds. 入道 was a term for big muscular monks, which the large clouds resembled.[2]

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入道雲{にゅうどうぐも} is named after 大入道{おおにゅうどう}, a giant 妖怪{ようかい} in Japanese folklore. A huge 積乱雲 is likened to a standing giant.

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