Cool one’s heels

  • Cool one’s heels is an idiom that has been in use for hundreds of years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase cool one’s heels, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    To cool one’s heels means to wait or be kept waiting, especially if someone is kept waiting because the one who is making that person wait wants to be rude or to snub the person who is waiting. The idiom cool one’s heels has been in use for a surprisingly long time, at least since the 1600s. The idea is that when one walks, his feet get hot. When one is still, his feet cool off. Related phrases are cools one’s heels, cooled one’s heels, cooling one’s heels.



    For those of you who were looking forward to Godzilla and King Kong finally clashing in the MonsterVerse next spring, you’ll have to cool your heels. (CinemaBlend Magazine)

    It’s a question that’s baffled many a traveler: Why can you get an accurate picture of the traffic you’ll face on the way to the airport, yet you have no idea how long you’ll cool your heels in line at security? (Condé Nast Traveler Magazine)

    I sat and cooled my heels for three hours and then was sent home. (The Dallas Morning News)

    My questions spilled forth, as I cooled my heels in the White House briefing room waiting for a briefing that was eventually postponed. (The Christian Science Monitor)

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