8 English Winter Idioms to Use in Daily Conversation

Feb 8, 2017 | Advanced Vocabulary

Where I come from, February is the very middle of winter.

The days are frigid* and gray. The snow might be icy, slushy*, and dirty. Just to go outside, you need heavy socks, boots, sweaters, a warm coat, hats, gloves, and a scarf.

It isn’t a pretty time of year, where I come from. Like the quote above, it’s a time to stay home, hibernate*, and be warm.

What about where you live? Is winter the same?

Whether you are in the middle of winter now or whether winter will come to you later this year, it’s always a good time to add new idioms to your English vocabulary.

In this lesson, I’ll highlight 8 new idioms that use common winter-related vocabulary.

(*New word? Find the meaning of this word at the end of the lesson.)

Watch the video and then share your favorite idiom with me in the comments below.

Lesson by Annemarie

8 English Winter Idioms + Useful Vocabulary for the Winter Season

To be on thin ice

To be in a risky situation or position

“You’re already on thin ice, Joan. If you’re late to work one more time, you might get fired.”

Break the ice

To start a social or friendly conversation; to start something

“Before we begin to discuss today’s agenda, let’s break the ice a little bit. I know we have some new people in the group, so let’s get to know each other first.”

The tip of the iceberg

A small part of something that is much bigger and often unseen

“These protests are just the tip of the iceberg. I think there’s much more going on that we don’t know about yet.”

In the dead of winter

In the middle of winter, when the days are short, dark, and cold

“Even in the dead of winter, there are many wonderful outdoor activities to do in Canada.”

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” – Edith Sitwell

The snowball effect

A situation or problem when the consequences grow at a faster rate over time

“The beginning popularity of applications for the iPhone and Android created a snowball effect and now there is an endless number of apps for smartphones.”

To get cold feet

To lose courage; to suddenly become too nervous to do something important (like giving a speech, getting married, doing something adventurous)

“Sarah’s piano recital was last weekend. Unfortunately, she got cold feet and she didn’t perform.”

The cold shoulder

To reject someone; to not speak to someone

“Laura’s giving me the cold shoulder. I guess she’s still mad that I forgot her birthday last week.”

When hell freezes over / A snowball’s chance in hell

Never; impossible; no chance

(These idioms come from the idea that hell is very hot – it will never freeze and a snowball can’t survive in hell. These idioms are always used negatively.)

“If she doesn’t improve her grades, she’s got a snowball’s chance in hell to get into the best university.”

“Is it possible to get to the train station in 30 minutes? When hell freezes over! With normal traffic, it will take you at least an hour, maybe more.”

A snow day (noun phrase) – a day at home after the cancellation of school for children due to snow, ice, or very cold weather

“Do you think we’ll get enough snow to have a snow day tomorrow?”

A cold snap (noun phrase) – the sudden (and maybe unexpected) arrival of very cold weather

“Just yesterday I was sitting outside, enjoying the warm sun at a cafe!! What happened? Where did this cold snap come from?”

To hibernate (verb) – to spend the winter dormant (for example, many animals hibernate during the winter months); to withdraw or be in seclusion

“The days are so short and cold during the winter; I just prefer to hibernate at home rather than be outside.”

Frigid (adjective) – extremely cold weather/temperatures

“Don’t forget to wear warm clothes to school! It’s frigid this morning.”

Slushy (adjective) – from the noun slush, which means partly melted snow

“Ugh, this time of year is so ugly. I’d would prefer colder temperatures to have white snow instead of this slushy mess!”

Comfort food (noun phrase) – food that is simple and gives us a feeling of warmth or reminds us of home

“When I’m sick, the only thing I want is some of my mom’s comfort food, like her delicious chicken soup.”

Review the situations below. Can you replace the text in bold with an idiom or one of the vocabulary words from the lesson?

Situation 1: Everything says the weather this weekend will be terrible. Maybe we’ll even have a blizzard. It sounds to me like this is a great weekend to stay at home, watch movies, and sleep.

Situation 2: I’ve told you 3 times now! You need to clean your room before you watch any more TV. If you don’t get your room cleaned soon, you won’t be able to watch TV today or tomorrow.

Situation 3: Everyone was shocked when she canceled her wedding at the last minute. She said she felt too nervous.

Situation 4: Over the last few decades, the number of women in the United States with an advanced university is higher than men. These numbers continue to increase rapidly.

Situation 5: The company has experienced several public relations problems this year and it’s impacting their sales. And I fear this is only the beginning. We may learn about some bigger problems soon.

And now I’d love for you to try using some of these idioms on your own. Think about your daily life or something happening at work- can you create 1 or 2 sentences using an idiom from this lesson?

Have fun! ~ Annemarie

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