Happy New Year, everyone! I sincerely hope that 2014 will bring you much joy, prosperity and happiness.

A frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago_Getty Images

A frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago_Getty Images

While the UK has been battered by rain and gale force winds, I’ve been thinking about our poor American cousins on the East Coast of the US who have been suffering polar freezing temperatures. I think the temperature recorded in Indianapolis yesterday was -56℃!!!

As I’ve been snuggled up in my warm house, I’ve been thinking of the abundance of winter words and expressions we have in the English Language that you could use during this cold period. Let’s have a look at some of them.

Winter Vocabulary

a cold snap (n) – a sudden short period of very cold weather
Ex. The UK is experiencing a very cold snap at the moment.

hibernate_www.art.co.ukto hibernate (v) – to sleep through the winter months (also used metaphorically)
Ex. We don’t see our neighbours during the winter as we all love to hibernate in the warmth of our homes. 

wind chill (n) – when the wind makes the air temperature feel colder
Ex. It might be zero degrees on the thermometer, but the wind chill makes it feel like -3 degrees.

slush (n) – snow that is starting to melt and become dirt
Ex. I don’t like it when the snow turns to slush. It’s so ugly.

snowbound (adj) – in a situation in which snow makes travelling impossible
Ex. Many flights at Heathrow airport were cancelled as it was snowbound over the last week.

sleet (n) – a mixture of snow and rain
Ex. Oh no, it’s not snow but sleet. I don’t like sleet.

snowfall (n) – the amount of snow that falls during a period of time
Ex. We’ve had 8cm of snowfall overnight.


Winter Phrases and Idiomatic Expressions

A lot of the expressions we have often have nothing to do with winter which can be confusing. Using some of these expressions will certainly add a sparkle to your English! Here are a few of my favourites: 

  • to have a snowball’s chance in hell (informal) – to have no chance of doing or having something
    ExYou have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the lottery.
  • snowed under – with too much work to deal with
    ExWe’re snowed under with applications for the job.  
  • put something on ice (informal) – to delay something
    ExThe negotiations were put on ice when the market fell sharply.
  • to break the ice – to make people feel less nervous in a social situation
    ExHe told a few jokes to break the ice.
  • Photo: Jeffrey Hill_The English Blog

    Photo: Jeffrey Hill_The English Blog

    on thin ice – at risk of annoying someone
    ExI’m warning you, you’re on thin ice.

  • to get cold feet – to suddenly get too scared to do something planned
    ExShe cancelled the wedding because she got cold feet.
  • pure as the driven snow – to be completely innocent (often used to suggest the opposite)
    Ex. I don’t think she is as pure as the driven snow.

  • in the cold light of day –  to think about something clearly, without emotions, and often feel shame afterwards
    ExThe next morning, in the cold light of day, Emma realised what an idiot she had been.

  • to break into a cold sweat – to become scared about something
    ExKevin broke into a cold sweat when he realised the losses he had made.

Do you know any of these expressions? Have you used them? Do you know any others? Please do share them. Try them out with English speakers and let us know how you get on. In the meantime, if it’s winter where you are please stay warm!

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Ciao for now