Defrost Your Vocabulary: Winter Words
Thinking of winter instantly brings up images of frosty mornings and dark nights, but there is more to the season than just cold weather. We’ve listed some helpful winter words you might encounter during the colder months.
A blizzard is a severe snowstorm which combines falling snow with strong winds, making it very difficult to see and dangerous to drive. A ground blizzard on the other hand, is snow that has already fallen and is lifted and blown around by strong winds.
Sleet is frozen ice pellets that fall from the sky. They form when falling snow goes through a patch of warm air that melts them, and then the water refreezes into ice.
Hail is like sleet, but much, much bigger. It starts off, like sleet, as melted falling snow that turns into ice, but this ice is pushed up and down by the air, causing more and more water to freeze and making each piece of hail a lot bigger.
Freezing rain is rain that falls as liquid from the sky and lands on very cold things that cause it to freeze immediately after landing. This makes roads quite slippery so it's best to be careful!
Black ice is not actually black itself as its name suggests, but rather a very thin coating of ice on the street or pavement that is transparent, which means you can see the black road underneath - which is where its name comes from. It’s also quite dangerous because you cannot always see it’s icy, making it easy for people to slip.
A blanket of snow will usually cover the entire ground, coating houses, cars, and trees - and it looks like a thick white blanket! You could say ‘the town is covered in a blanket of snow.'
Feeling the cold?
To Catch a cold sounds like you’re running after a cold, but I’m sure most of us would run in the opposite direction of the dreaded winter cold. ‘To catch a cold’ means you’ve become sick, perhaps from touching a surface full of germs or if you’ve been in close contact to someone who is sick and sneezing.
To shiver with cold means you’re shaking from the cold outside. You will shiver with cold if you don’t wear warm clothing when going outside in winter.
Chattering teeth is your body’s response to the cold. When your body shakes it is trying to warm itself up, and chattering teeth is caused by your face muscles tensing and relaxing to create warmth, in the process your teeth will knock against each other and makes a noise. If you have spent a long time in the cold, you will shiver (you’ve just learned this word!) and your teeth will begin to chatter.
Chilly is the word used to describe a cool or cold feeling. You can either use it to describe how you feel ‘I feel chilly’ or to describe a noun ‘a chilly morning’ or ‘a chilly breeze'. This is different to chilli (UK) or chili (US), which is the hot pepper plant!
A cold draft is cold air that drifts into the warm indoors. You’ll usually notice this more if you are sitting by the door in a restaurant, and may even hear other diners complain to move because of the draft!
A cold snap is usually described as a sudden short spell of really cold weather, which is generally brief and colder than usual.
Wrap up warm is a term that refers to piling on your winter clothes! If it’s cold outside, someone might say ‘wrap up warm’, which usually means add some winter accessories like a hat, scarf, or gloves to keep warm.
Winter clothing accessories
Gloves and mittens are for keeping your hands warm in winter. Gloves have a separate space for each finger, whereas mittens have two sections, one for all 4 fingers and another for the thumb.
Many might be confused between the difference between a scarf and a shawl. A scarf is a piece of material that comes in a range of thickness and fabric, and is usually worn around your neck to keep you warm. A shawl is a larger piece of fabric that can usually be wrapped around the shoulders and back, and not just around your neck.
Earmuffs look similar to headphones but their sole purpose is to keep your ears warm from the cold winter air.
A beanie is a knitted cap to keep your head and ears warm; some even have a bobble at the top.
Outer garments include items like a parka, anorak, a jacket, or a coat. A parka is typically a long windproof jacket with a fur-lined hood, whereas an anorak is a waterproof jacket with a hood. A jacket is lighter and usually comes up to the waistline or just below, whereas a coat is heavier and has a longer length.
Long johns are undergarments that can be worn under jeans or pants, and are available for both men and woman. The fabric used is usually thermal which means it helps retain heat that your body produces.
A polo neck, a word commonly used in the UK, is also known as a turtleneck in the US, and a skivvy in Australia, and is a high neck, long sleeve top. In the UK, the word skivvy can be used to describe someone who clean dishes or performs menial tasks, and in the US it means underwear! So be careful how you use this one.
Comfort foods are usually described as foods that have a nostalgic feeling for an individual or include dishes that are comforting for winter days. Popular winter foods are stews (usually meat dishes that have been cooked for hours), pies and casseroles, or even a delicious warm soup. Take a look at some other traditional foods from the English-speaking world.
Want to see a city covered in snow? Study in Boston!
A freezing winter doesn't sound like your thing? Escape the cold and learn English in Australia