Stone cold and stone-cold

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Stone cold and stone-cold are interesting words that may be older than you think. We will examine the definitions of the expressions stone cold and  stone-cold, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Stone cold is an adjective that describes something that is extremely cold, something that is without warmth. This use of the term stone cold dates to the late 1500s. Note that when used to describe something that is without warmth, stone cold is rendered without a hyphen, unless used as an adjective before a noun, when it is hyphenated as in stone-cold.

Stone-cold, spelled with a hyphen, may also serve as an intensifier. An intensifier is a word that enhances the strength of an adjective or adverb. In this case, stone-cold usually means completely or totally. This use of stone-cold first came into use in the 1930s with expressions such as stone-cold sober. Interestingly, stone-cold is also used to modify nouns such as stone-cold fox, meaning a lovely lady, and stone-cold killer.


The warm Manila-Beijing relationship turned stone cold following the elevation of the overlapping maritime irritants by the Philippines against China before the PCA in 2013 during the administration of former President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III (P-Noy).  (The Philippine Star)

Police said Lois Riess, who authorities described as a “stone-cold killer” last week, was captured not far from the U.S.-Mexico border. (UPI)

Alex Grubard hosts this comedy competition featuring 16 local comics, 15 of which are kinda (or full-blown) stoned out of their gourds, one of which is stone-cold sober. (The Portland Mercury)

The cold execution by “125” of an officer serving paperwork to someone inexplicably, given his repeated offenses, out on the streets on parole has naturally sparked discussion of a final punishment, and reignites the debate on the death penalty for such a stone-cold killer. (The Cape Cod Times)