Cold shoulder

The cold shoulder is an idiom that dates back several hundred years, and is most often seen in the phrase give someone the cold shoulder. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of giving someone the cold shoulder, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To give someone the cold shoulder means to display indifference toward that person, to snub him, to be unfriendly and unaccepting of that person. Related terms are gives someone the cold shoulder, gave someone the cold shoulder, giving someone the cold shoulder. The idiom can be traced back to the early 1800s to the work The Antiquary, written by Sir Walter Scott: “Ye may mind that the Countess’s dislike did na gang farther at first than just shewing o’ the cauld shouther—at least it wasna seen fartha…” Whether Scott coined the phrase the cold shoulder or whether it was a phrase already used among the Scottish is unknown. The story that the term cold shoulder came from the habit of hosts serving cold shoulder meat to unwelcome guests is untrue. To give someone the cold shoulder is a simply a metaphor illustrating the physical turn one make with the body to close oneself off from interacting with an unwelcome person.


She’s blunt without being brash, not shy about giving the Russians the cold shoulder, nor making it clear that the United States stands with Israel, not with the wolves that look for opportunities to mock, belittle and scorn the Jewish state. (The Washington Times)

Giving a cold shoulder to the appeal made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, resident doctors in Delhi have decided not to treat any patient for free till the government assures them of protection from frequent assaults by attendants of patients. (The Daily News & Analysis)

Help Us Improve!

Help Us Improve!

- Did we make a mistake?
- Do you have feedback or suggestions on how we can improve?

press Enter

Use Shift+Tab to go back