Good cold Idioms include:
- Left out in the cold.
- I’ve got cold feet.
- He’s cold hearted.
- In cold blood.
- It will be a cold day in hell.
One common feature in many (but not all) of these idioms is that ‘cold’ signifies being unkind and unemotional. It’s often seen as a negative thing in contrast to warmth.
Other times, it’s positive – especially in regards to ‘cool’ or ‘chilled’, meaning relaxed.
Read below for all of the cold idioms I could come up with and explanations of each!
1. Left out in the Cold (Brought in from the Cold)
To be left out in the cold means that you have been excluded from something. You could imagine a dog standing outside in the cold weather looking in at their family sitting around a fire feeling warm. The dog feels excluded and unloved.
Figuratively, a person left out in the cold will be excluded from insider knowledge. They might be excluded because they’re not trusted enough or even not liked enough.
When someone does finally get included in secret information or even a secret club, they’re said to be “brought in from the cold”.
A person who is brought in from the cold might have been temporarily excluded due to a misdemeanor or because they annoyed people inside the “in group”.
Read Also: Cold Metaphors
2. Chilled Out
To be ‘chilled out’ means to be relaxed.
This term utilizes the symbolic meaning of cold as slow to anger,) slow to move, or calm. It’s in contrast to hot which generally means fast to anger and quick to react (for example: ‘he’s hot under the collar’).
There is also an element of being ‘cool’ here. You can imagine surfer dudes or the popular people in school having an air of being ‘chilled out’. They’re not easy to anger or upset and don’t seem to have much to worry about in their lives.
They appear perfectly happy and content with themselves.
3. Take a Chill Pill
This one builds on the above concept of being ‘chilled out’. If someone isn’t chilled out, we can tell them to “take a chill pill”.
We’re not saying they should literally take a pill. Rather, it is a suggestion that you stop and relax.
You would say this to someone who is angry as a colloquial way to let them know you think they need to calm down.
Or, you might say it to someone who is overly stressed about something that isn’t a really big deal. You’re telling them that they are stressed for no particular reason.
4. Cold Case
A cold case is an unsolved crime that is no longer being investigated. It is called a cold case because there are no longer any ‘hot leads’ (which are options left to explore to see if you can solve the case).
You could also say that ‘the lead has gone cold’ to talk about a situation where the police have no more clues to investigate.
The idiom also works because ‘cold’ is often associated with ‘dead’, so a ‘dead case’ is also a crime case that has not been solved.
5. Cold Feet
To get cold feet means to lose your nerve at the last minute. It’s usually attributed to runaway brides on their wedding day. A bride who does not turn up to her wedding is said to have “gotten cold feet”.
However, you can use it in other situations, also. For example, you could say that you got cold feet if you planned to go skydiving but backed out on the day.
This is an idiom whose origins are largely unknown and the analogy seems to make little clear sense to the layperson. Some early uses of the term include in Fritz Reuter’s 1862 novel Seed Time and Harvest and Stephen Crane’s novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.
6. Cold Hands, Warm Heart
Many people have a mild condition where their extremities (their feet and hands) get very cold. Often, you will hear people trying to comfort them by saying “cold hands, warm heart”.
The idea behind this is that you’re giving the person a somewhat unsolicited (and random) complement. “You might have cold hands, but you’ve got a lovely personality.”
For more about the idiom ‘warm heart’, see my article on heart metaphors.
Read Also: Winter Symbolism in Literature and Film
7. Cold Hearted
To be cold-hearted means to be aloof, unsympathetic and potentially evil.
If someone is being cruel to someone else, you might point them out and say “that person is cold-hearted”.
This idiom stems from the common idea that to be ‘warm’ is to be kind and welcoming (like a warm hearth – you want to sit by it!) and to be cold is the opposite – it’s negative (you don’t want to be out in the cold too long!).
8. Cold Light of Day
The idiom ‘cold light of day’ means to look at something in a clear and emotionless way.
It stems from the idea that you might do something when your emotions are high. But if you wait another day and re-visit the thing that got you emotional, you might see it from a different perspective.
The term ‘cold’ here refers to your emotions. They are no longer ‘hot’ (i.e. angry) but rather ‘cold’ (emotionless). This is a similar usage as ‘to do something in cold blood’ discussed later in this article.
9. Cold Shoulder
To give someone the cold shoulder means to shun them.
You could imagine a person walking into a dinner party and greeting everyone else at the party but not you. They intentionally left you out because they’re annoyed at you.
Here, they ‘gave you the cold shoulder’.
The first half of the idiom – cold – is used in the sense of emotionlessness and unkind. The second half – shoulder – may refer to the fact they’ve got their back to you. To see you, they would have to look over their shoulder (probably with a snide look on their face, too!)
10. Cold Turkey
The term ‘cold turkey’ means to give something up immediately rather than slowly doing it less and less over time.
It’s most often used when referring to quitting smoking.
The term comes from the idea that people who get withdrawal symptoms often get clammy skin and goosebumps. In these cases, their skin looks like the skin of a turkey in their freezer: bumpy and clammy!
11. Cold War
The cold war was a diplomatic dispute between the United States and the USSR that spanned most of the second half of the 20th Century. Each superpower was pushing their own ideology – communism vs. capitalism – around the world. They also both had nuclear weapons, which led to significant concerns about a nuclear war.
It’s called the “cold” war because there wasn’t actually any direct battles taking place (besides some proxy wars). Rather, it was a stand-off that everyone knew could lead to a war without delicate diplomatic handling.
Today, you might use this idiom in a metaphorical sense to refer to two family members or work colleagues who strongly loathe one another and aren’t on speaking terms, but nonetheless are not arguing outright.
12. Stone Cold
‘Stone cold’ means ‘completely’. It comes from the idea that stones can be very cold and devoid of any heat.
A common usage of this term is to say that your tea or coffee is ‘stone cold’, meaning you have let it sit for so long that there’s no heat left in the drink at all.
Another time it is regularly used is to refer to a good looking man as a stone cold fox. You could interpret this as an ‘absolute’ fox, where ‘fox’ is a term to explain a good-looking person.
Read Also: Stone Metaphors
13. Cool Reception
To give someone a cool reception means to make them feel unwelcome or unliked.
You could imagine walking into a room and many people in that room not particularly liking you. So, instead of jumping up and giving you a kiss on the cheek, they sit there and ignore your appearance.
Again, this uses the term ‘cool’ in the sense of unkind and unwelcoming.
14. Froze Up
To ‘freeze up’ means to have a mental block where you cannot do or say things easily.
For example, if you were on a live television interview, and someone asks you a question, but you couldn’t think of an answer, you ‘froze up’. This often happens when we get stage fright.
Imagine your thoughts are like a flowing river. Usually it flows with ease and your thoughts flow in and out of your mind. When that river ‘freezes up’, your thoughts can no longer flow, and you’re stuck without any idea of what to think or say!
15. He’s Frosty
When you call someone frosty, you’re saying that they’re not very kind or welcoming. They might even be outright cruel. Once again, we’re seeing ‘cool’ being associated with ‘unkind’.
For example, if you meet your new boss and he doesn’t smile at you and take time to get to know you, you might think “oh no, my boss is frosty!”
You can also say ‘frosty reception’ as a substitute for ‘cool reception’.
16. Hot and Cold
Someone who is ‘hot and cold’ is a person whose attitude changes regularly. It’s often in regard to attitude toward something, like a person (you?) or a thing or idea.
For example, one minute they seem to be happy to see you and then the next they seem to be ‘cold’ toward you (meaning they aren’t behaving like they like you).
Or, it might be ‘hot and cold’ about the idea of buying a new car. One day they really want it and the next they decide they don’t want it. Their thoughts about the car might alternate daily.
17. In Cold Blood
To do something in cold blood means to do it in a calm manner. It’s in contrast to ‘in hot blood’, which would mean to do it during a moment of intense emotion.
This idiom is usually used in relation to murder.
A person who murders someone in cold blood has planned it out and done it methodically. By contrast, a killing ‘in hot blood’ might have occurred during a moment of intense anger, and they quickly came to regret their actions.
18. It’ll be a Cold Day in Hell
When you say “it will be a cold day in hell”, you are saying that something is very much unlikely to happen. In our culture, we think of hell as a very hot place, like a furnace.
So, to say “it’ll be a cold day in hell before I (do something)”, you’re saying “that will never happen”, just like hell will never be cold.
An alternate saying that means the same thing is: “when hell freezes over”.
19. Knocked out Cold (or just Out Cold)
If you are “out cold”, you’re unconscious.
We will often say someone is “knocked out cold” in relation to a boxing fight. It means that they have been punched so hard that they lost consciousness.
You could also simply say “out cold” in relation to someone who is fast asleep. For example, you might say “Don’t bother trying to wake John up. He’s out cold.” In this case, John is unlikely to wake up because he is in a deep sleep.
Read Also: Sleep Metaphors
20. Let it Thaw
Thawing is the process of letting something that is frozen slowly de-freeze.
We can use the idiom ‘let it thaw’ to refer to any situation where you are going to let some time pass because you think time can solve a problem.
For example, if you were having an argument with your husband or wife, you might “let it thaw”, meaning you will forget about it for a few days. By the time you come back to the argument, both of you might be looking at the issue from a calmer and less emotional perspective.
21. Pour Cold Water on It
We will usually say to “pour cold water” on something to refer to the idea of rejecting or stopping something.
It comes from the idea that you can put cold water on a fire to put it out.
Usually, we will use this idiom when we are talking about how someone’s idea was rejected. For example, you might have an idea to start a new business selling cupcakes. You might go to your parents and ask them what they think and they say “it’s a terrible idea, don’t do it.”
Here, you could say that your parents “poured cold water” over your idea.
Read Also: Water Metaphors
22. Pried from my Cold Dead Hands
If you say “it will be pried from my cold dead hands”, you’re saying that you’re not going to give something up. You will have to be killed before you hand it over.
The reason we have “cold” here is because dead bodies have lost all their usual body heat. We usually have warmth emanating from out bodies, but once we die, that disappears.
You might use this phrase if you have a candy that you are not going to give up to someone who wants it.
Read Also: Death Metaphors
23. Put it on Ice
To put something on ice means to put it on hold for a while. For example, you might have a great big idea to start a business selling lemonade. You think it’s a great idea, but you’re too busy right now. Maybe you can do it in January when you’re less busy.
You’ll say: “Let’s put that idea on ice and come back to it in January when we have time for it.”
The idea here is that putting things on (or in) ice preserves it in its current state. For example, you could put a steak on ice to prevent it from going off until you’re ready to cook it.
Read Also: Ice Symbolism
24. Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold
Earlier, I referred to ‘killing in cold blood’. This idiom is related to that one.
If you kill in cold blood, you do it in a calm, methodical manner. You don’t do it out of emotions.
Similarly, in this idiom, we’re talking about taking revenge in cold blood. It’s saying that you shouldn’t take revenge while you’re highly emotional and angry. Instead, wait until you have calmed down and then take revenge in a subtle, stealthy way that will be more effective.
You could use this phrase if your friends is really angry and wants to take revenge on someone. Say: “Calm down and wait until tomorrow. Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Read Also: Anger Metaphors
25. Pay Freeze
No, this doesn’t mean you put all your money in the freezer. It means you’re not getting a pay rise this year.
You will often hear this term discussed in relation to the public service. The government might need to save money so they say “we will put in a pay freeze on all public employees this year”.
What they really mean is a pay pause. So, ‘freeze’ is used as a replacement for ‘pause’ here, because if something’s frozen, it won’t move.
26. Stuck in Colder Weather
You say you’re “stuck in colder weather” to someone when you wish you could be with them but you won’t be able to be there.
This idiom is saying that you would rather be somewhere else right now (for example, having a dinner party with your family). But you can’t be there – you’re “stuck in colder weather”. The implication is that colder weather is a bad thing, and you’d rather be in warmer weather with your friends.
There is a song based on this idiom by Zac Brown Band.
The command “Freeze!” is often used by police to order people not to move.
Everyone has seen police shows where a police officer yells out “Freeze!” and holds his gun up to a thief.
You could even hear a teacher say it when their students are running around causing a riot in the classroom. They might say “everyone freeze and put your hands on your head”.
Like the terms ‘pay freeze’ and ‘to freeze up’, again we’re seeing that freeze is often used as a metonymy for pause, and when placed in a sentence where analogy is constructed, becomes a metaphor.
Idioms are great tools for learning about the English language. Something central to a lesson on cold idioms is the idea that coldness is usually a negative thing, while coolness is good because it means ‘relaxed’.
I’m a Scorpio, I love the outdoors, and I’ve written articles in some major online publications like Medium and The Weekly. My favorite metaphor? Anything that’s got to do with baseball. I’m fascinated by the fact our language has baseball weaved all through it. Read more about me here.