Cold Shoulder – Idiom, Meaning & Origin

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Have you ever purposely ignored someone and given the cold shoulder? But what does the phrase “cold shoulder” even mean? You might have heard it used before and wondered where the heck it came from, or maybe you’ve even been on the receiving end of it. Well, you won’t get the cold shoulder from me because I’m’ about to explain it to you.

What Does Cold Shoulder Mean?

Grammarist Article Graphic V5 22

It’s’ pretty easy to define cold shoulder meaning. When someone gives you the “cold shoulder,” they’re basically ignoring you or acting distant and uninterested in what you have to say. It’s like they’re treating you with indifference, and as if you don’t even exist. We’ve all experienced it in some form, so just think about it for a moment and try to recall a time when someone in your life ignored you out of the blue.

Basically, it’s a clear sign that they don’t want to engage with you, and they might be upset or annoyed by any little thing you do. What comes to my mind when thinking of the phrase is when I don’t give my kids what they want and, after throwing a tantrum, they completely ignore me for a while. Parenting is fun.

Cold Shoulder Origin

The origin of “cold shoulder” dates back to the 1800s when it was a literal reference to serving a cold piece of meat to a guest who was no longer welcome at a dinner party. Giving someone the cold shoulder about whatever meat they had cooked was a clear, unspoken signal that they were no longer welcome, and it was time for them to vamoose. The phrase has since evolved to take on the figurative meaning we use today.

Is the Phrase the Cold Shoulder an Idiom?

Absolutely! Whether you’re giving the cold shoulder or receiving it from someone else, the phrase is a common idiom.

Using Cold Shoulder in a Sentence

  • After a heated argument with my mom, she gave me the cold shoulder and wouldn’t talk to me for the rest of the night.
  • My boss has been giving me the cold shoulder since I made that mistake at work, and now it’s’ all I can think about.
  • I can tell my best friend is upset with me because she’s been giving me the cold shoulder all night.
  • My parents gave my sister the cold shoulder when they discovered she had secretly dropped out of college.
  • I can’t believe the CEO gave the new employee the cold shoulder when he found out they were from out of the country.
  • When I drummed up the courage and asked my crush to go out with me, she gave me the cold shoulder and said she wasn’t interested.
  • I could tell my coworkers were unhappy with me because they were giving me the cold shoulder at the staff meeting.
  • After our breakup, my ex gave me the cold shoulder and wouldn’t return my calls or texts.
  • My son’s teacher gave another student the cold shoulder when he found out he had cheated on the exam.

You Can Give or Get the Cold Shoulder

It can be a pretty powerful gesture, especially when it comes from someone you care about or are close to. I hope you found this article helpful and that you now have a better understanding of what this phrase means and where it comes from.