"Maggie had from her window, seen her stepmother leave the house—at so unlikely an hour, three o'clock of a canicular August…. It was the hottest day of the season…."
— Henry James, The Golden Bowl, 1904
Hearing one speak of the dog days of summer might make you think of a pooch panting with its tongue out during a heat wave. But despite the name, we can’t pin the sweltering August heat on man’s best friend.
The dog days get their name due to their association with the Dog Star, Sirius, found in the constellation Canis Major. Canicula is the Latin name for Sirius. The first visible rising of Sirius occurs during the hot stretch from early July to early September. The Greeks called this time of year hēmerai kynades, which the Romans translated into Latin as dies caniculares—the canicular days, or as we know them in English, "the dog days."