Let’s Talk Winter - English Winter Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions

Wow, it has been super cold in the UK in the last couple of weeks. We’ve had some record snowfalls and temperatures across the country.

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Photo: Nigel Dickinson

While I’ve been hibernating in my lovely warm house I’ve been thinking of the abundance of 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.


to 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 dirty

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.

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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

Ex. You have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the lottery.


snowed under - with too much work to deal with

Ex. We’re snowed under with applications for the job. 


on thin ice - at risk of annoying someone

Ex. I’m warning you, you’re on thin ice.


put something on ice (informal) - to delay something

Ex. The negotiations were put on ice when the market fell sharply.


to break the ice - to make people feel less nervous in a social situation

Ex. He told a few jokes to break the ice.


to get cold feet - to suddenly get too scared to do something planned

Ex. She 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

Ex. The 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

Ex. Kevin 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 with us. Try them out with English speakers and let us know how you get on.

And if you think your friends might benefit from this blog post, please share it with them.

Shanthi Streat

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