While I’ve been hibernating in my lovely warm house, I thought of the many words and expressions we have in the English Language that you could use during such a cold period. Let’s have a look at some of them. Also, teachers, I included some lesson ideas at the bottom of this email.
WINTER VOCABULARY & IDIOMS
black ice (n) – a very thin coating of ice found on roads and sidewalks that is difficult to see, and therefore quite dangerous
ex: Irina said that the black ice on her street caused 3 car accidents.
a cold snap (n) – a sudden short period of very cold weather
Ex. New York City 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 neighbors during the cold winter months, since we 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 -15 degrees.
slush (n) – snow that has started to melt and has become dirty
Ex. I don’t like it when the snow turns to slush. It’s so ugly and gross.
to be snowbound (v) – to be stranded or unable to leave a place because of heavy snowfall.
Ex. We were snowbound at the airport for the whole weekend due to the blizzard.
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 8 centimeters of snowfall overnight.
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.
whiteout (n.) – to be unable to tell the difference between things because of an overabundance of snow
ex: After the whiteout, looking outside was like looking at a sheet of paper.
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 realized the losses he had made.
to run hot and cold – to be unable to make up one’s mind
ex: Alexi’s feelings about her run hot and cold, one minute he loves her, and the next, he’s bored of her.
the snowball effect – when something small keeps growing in importance or significance
ex: Gangnam Style’s popularity was such a snowball effect.
put something on ice – to stop doing something
ex: Herbert is going to put the project on ice until he gets a response from his supervisor.
snowed under – to be overwhelmed, usually with responsibilities
ex: I’m sorry I can’t go to the party tonight, I’m snowed under with homework.
Did you see any challenging words in the above blog post? Learn their meanings!
to be stranded – to be unable to leave a certain place
significance – importance, distinction
abundance – a large amount of something
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.
LESSON IDEAS FOR TEACHERS
Are you a teacher who is thinking of using this list of idioms? Here are a few suggested actions on how to teach winter vocabulary and idioms:
Warm up – The students can discuss winter idioms from their own countries. You may need to explain what is an idiom to your students if they are unfamiliar with the term.
Reading Practice – Students read and listen to the poem “No” by Thomas Hood. Copies of the poem and its audio recording can be found at http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/poems/no.
Conversation – Students discuss the following questions:
1. What was Thomas Hood’s opinion about winter? Cite textual evidence.
2. Do you agree with Thomas Hood? Is winter so bad? Why or why not?
Writing Practice – In small groups, students write a vivid and descriptive poem about winter using at least 5 idioms. It’s even more fun, when students are divided into 2 groups: the Winter Lovers and the Winter Haters.