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What Does "Cloud Nine" Mean?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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The term “cloud nine” is typically used to refer to a state of happiness and euphoria, though it can instead be used to refer to intoxication or feelings of light-headedness. This term’s exact origins are fairly difficult to discern, though one particularly popular, and almost universally dismissed, explanation relates to a numerical system said to have been used at one time by the Weather Bureau in the US for designating the height of clouds. Regardless of its origins, most people use the phrase “being on cloud nine” to indicate extreme happiness or satisfaction with life.

“Cloud nine” is a term typically associated either with general happiness, regardless of the cause of that happiness, or a state of inattentiveness or daydreaming. This term is likely American in origin and initial usage, though it could have come from a number of different sources. It has been used within numerous drug cultures, often associated with illegal narcotics that are often consumed through burning and inhalation of the smoke produced by them, such as marijuana or “crack” cocaine. In this usage, “cloud nine” can have a negative connotation, as it typically refers to a state of euphoria that may be experienced by someone under the sway of the drug, and can indicate physical incapacitation due to this intoxication.

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Many people use the expression “on cloud nine” to refer to a state of general happiness, or daydreaming. This may be associated with other terms like “having one’s head in the clouds” and the numerical value of the expression seems to change in different uses over time. There is evidence of people using the terms “cloud seven” and “cloud eight” as well as “cloud nine,” all with the same meanings. “Cloud seven” even seems to indicate a relationship with the notion of “seventh heaven” and positive feelings of happiness associated with such an elevated state.

Some sources cite the origin of “cloud nine” as an old system once used by the US Weather Bureau for categorizing clouds based on their height. There is little evidence to support this claim, however, and not much evidence to show that such a system was ever used. What evidence there is, however, suggests that 10 would have been the highest level of cloud, making the use of “nine” and the variable nature of the numerical value in older uses further discredit this source. It is likely that “cloud nine” simply stems from an association with clouds as a place of happiness away from the cares of a terrestrial world, and that the numerical value has been largely arbitrary.

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Perdido
Post 4

@shell4life – That's cute that you guys thought of that as kids. I didn't even know what “cloud nine” meant when I was that young, until my mother decided to create a game for me and my cousins by that name.

She made this life-size board game for us. She used one small room of the house, and she painted nine clouds on the floor. She drew squares in between the clouds, and we would answer trivia questions in order to advance by a few squares.

You started out on cloud 1, and the object of the game was to answer enough questions correctly to be the first to advance all the way to cloud 9. This quickly became my favorite game, because I actually got to be the piece that moved around the board!

OeKc05
Post 3

My mother always used this phrase to describe the feeling of being in love. Whenever I was a teenager and I would get a crush on someone, she would comment on my state of reverie by saying that the boy had put me on cloud nine.

In fact, even after I graduated college and met the man I believed I would marry, my mother asked me what she thought was the most important question. She asked if he put me on cloud nine.

When she did, she did it with a tone and a facial expression that indicated the importance of my answer being, “Yes.” If he didn't make me feel all giddy like I did over boys as a teenager, then she believed the marriage would be doomed to failure.

orangey03
Post 2

If you search for “cloud nine” online, you will find a vast array of things. So many people have used this name for their businesses because of the ultimate greatness associated with it.

I've heard of everything from bars to toy stores having cloud nine in their names. It's funny, because if you see this in a name, you have no idea what kind of business it is referring to, unless they stick the word “bar” or “toys” after it.

If I were going to start a business, I would avoid using this phrase in the name of it. Even though it does conjure up positive images, it's just too generic and overused.

shell4life
Post 1

When I was a kid, my friends and I had a treehouse that we named “Cloud Nine Play House.” We painted the outside of it blue with white puffy blobs, and since being up there really made us happy, I believe it was aptly named.

There is something about being up a tree that makes a kid joyful. It's even better when you have an actual house up there to walk around in, because you aren't scared of falling all the time.

I really miss that treehouse now. Some of my happiest memories were made in there. We really had no idea when we named it that it would live up to its name.

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