In the German language there is the word "Föhn" meaning a special type of warm wind where those who are sensitive to weather changes have huge problems, like migraines, etc.

Regardless where I searched though I found no English translation for this. Is there anything that could be used (word or phrase) to describe the Föhn-wind?

  • Interesting trivai, a hairdryer in Italian is called "fon" after the wind itself. But many Italians think it's an English word, and will call that appliance "a phon". Leaving English speakers completely bewildered.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 15:17

4 Answers 4


German native speaker here. In its glossary of meteorology, the American Meteorological Society simply uses foehn/föhn (also used in the UK; the article even mentions the Foehnkrankenheit (sic!)):

[...] the phenomenon has been linked to depression, suicide, madness, headaches, sleeplessness and crime waves.

Same goes for Wikipedia. A look into Google Books confirms that the word is used inside many English-language books. A similar phenomenon in the US and Canada are the Chinook winds, which might have the same effect (though it is stated that there is no clear evidence):

Chinook winds have been blamed for increases in several medical conditions including migraines, strokes, and even sudden infant death syndrome.

The glossary article linked above also names a few other variants found throughout the world.


I think the more common English spelling is:

Foehn or fohn:

a warm, dry wind descending a mountain, as on the north side of the Alps.



a warm dry wind blowing down the northern slopes of the Alps. It originates as moist air blowing from the Mediterranean, rising on reaching the Alps and cooling at the saturated adiabatic lapse rate, and descending on the leeward side, warming at the dry adiabatic lapse rate, thus gaining heat.

  • Also used of other descending winds, such as of the Pennines (northern England) It is technical language, and as such not very widely used. The bit about migranes is new to me, and probably not part of the main meaning of "foehn" in English.
    – James K
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 20:37

There is no direct translation into English, possibly because it sounds like a local name for a fairly common weather phenomenon.

For example, here in Southern California we have the "Santa Anas", a dry wind that blows from the Santa Ana desert out over the ocean, and is unfortunately common around late summer / early autumn when everything is already very dry. Small blazes, that would normally be easily extinguished, quickly turn into out-of-control wildfires when the Santa Anas are blowing, which happened with numerous fires just this past year.

Elsewhere few people would know what a "Santa Ana" is, or why it's important to life here, but will understand if you describe it. In the same way the Föhn-Wind is what those in that area call something that may have other names in other regions of the world: The Brookings/Chetco effect, Chinook, Kumagaya, Puelche, Wuhan, Viento del Sur, Nor'Wester, and many others.

Note that "Föhn" (or "Foehn") may be in the dictionary, but then so are many other names of winds from around the world. Knowing these may get you many points when playing Scrabble, but you'll still probably have to explain them in casual conversation.


Foehn is the international agreed term for winds that are warmed and dried by descent. Foehn is used everywhere in scientific literature. A reason for this is that foehn-research has a long history in Switzerland and Austria where people speak german (Föhn).

However, other terms exist for the same phenomena. In the Rocky Mountains its chinook, in Argentine zonda, in the Andes puelche, Poland calls it halny wiatr... There are many other words, but it is always the same phenomenon.

I know this, because I am writing my master thesis about foehn.

About the well-being of people during foehn: There has been intensive research to find a link between foehn and illnesses (headache, migraines etc). But until today, nobody has found a statistically significant link. There is no proof, that foehn makes people ill or feeling bad.

  • While this is interesting information, it doesn't really address the question of an English translation.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:21
  • @Chenmunka - I think that both foehn (an internationally agreed-upon term) and chinook (used in the North American Rockies) address that question.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:13

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