The Chilling Reality of the “Cold Shoulder”

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a frosty silence and a turned back? If so, you’ve experienced being given “the cold shoulder.” This idiom paints a vivid picture of deliberate snubbing and social rejection, but how did the expression come to be?

What Does “Give Someone the Cold Shoulder” Mean?

The idiom means to intentionally ignore, dismiss, or act unfriendly towards someone. It signifies a deliberate act of showing disinterest or disapproval.

Possible Origins

There isn’t a single definitive origin, but some interesting theories exist:

  • Medieval Hospitality (or Lack Thereof): Guests at a feast might receive a literal cold shoulder of meat as a subtle snub, implying they were less important.
  • The Power of Body Language: Turning your shoulder towards someone is a dismissive gesture, symbolizing rejection.

When to Use This Idiom

“Give someone the cold shoulder” fits these situations:

  • Social Snubs: “After the argument, my best friend has been giving me the cold shoulder.”
  • Workplace Tension: “It seems like my boss has been giving me the cold shoulder lately.”
  • Relationship Troubles: “I’m worried my partner is giving me the cold shoulder after our disagreement. “

When to Avoid This Idiom

Choose your words carefully with this idiom:

  • Formal Settings: Opt for more direct phrases like “ignoring me” or “refusing to speak to me” in professional or serious contexts.
  • When Unsure: If you’re not positive someone is intentionally snubbing you, avoid the phrase, as it carries an accusatory tone.

Idioms Add Spice

“Give someone the cold shoulder” is a colorful addition to your vocabulary. Understanding its meaning and nuances helps you communicate experiences of social rejection and intentional slights with more impact.


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<a href="" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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