Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cold adj.

[all uses, positive or negative, stem from the unadorned ‘iciness’ of SE cold]

1. [mid-19C+] simple, unadorned.

2. [mid-19C+] unconscious.

3. [late 19C–1930s] (US campus) perfect, complete.

4. [late 19C+] sexually unresponsive.

5. [late 19C+] (orig. US, also cold-ass) heartless, ruthless, cruel.

6. [20C+] dead.

7. [20C+] (US) of money, the actual sum, i.e. abbr. cold cash.

8. [20C+] (gambling) unlucky, unfavourable.

9. [1920s+] (US) of a cheque, fraudulent, worthless.

10. [1920s+] (US black/teen) unpleasant, difficult, unnecessary.

11. [1930s] (US tramp) of a safe, wallet, or other target of a crime, empty, worthless, unrewarding.

12. [1950s+] free of suspicion, innocent; of a gun, unlicensed, thus untraceable.

13. [1970s+] (US black/teen) on bad = good model, excellent, first-rate, superb.

14. [1980s] (US black) confrontational, provocative, conducive to violence.

In compounds

cold-ass (adj.)

see sense 12 above.

cold poke (n.) [poke n.2 (2)]

[1920s–40s] (US Und.) a wallet without any money in it; thus a confidence game based on such an empty wallet.

cold shot (n.) [senses 12/14 above + shot n.1 (5c)] [1960s+] (US black)

1. unnecessary and aggressive behaviour.

2. cruel, emotionless behaviour.

3. an unpleasant surprise.

In phrases

cold as a maggot (adj.)

[1960s+] a phr. suggesting someone is innocent of a police charge.

cold in hand [gambling jargon, to be cold is to have poor cards, unlucky dice etc; however, in poker jargon a cold deck for an honest player is a good hand, requiring no change of cards, while for a sharp it is one that has been stacked, guaranteeing a win for the cheat]

[1930s–60s] (US black) without money, penniless.

in the cold

[1910s+] (Aus.) in prison.

not so cold

[late 19C] (US) rather good.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

cold blood (n.)

[mid-19C] a liquor store or ‘off licence’ that can sell beer but cannot have it drunk on the premises.

cold-blooded (adj.)

[1960s+] (US) honest, open, candid.

cold case (n.)

[1980s+] (US black/L.A.) a very bad situation; a serious scolding.

cold choke (n.) [SE choke; but note choke n.1 (2)]

[mid-19C+] (W.I.) cold food, which is hard to swallow.

cold coffee (n.) [SE cold coffee, which is usu. considered an unappetizing drink]

1. [mid–late 19C] bad luck.

2. [late 19C] a snub.

3. [late 19C–1910s] beer [the colour + ? euph.].

Cold Country (n.) [apparently a Bulletin nonce-creation]

[1900s–30s] (Aus.) Great Britain.

cold cream (n.) [play on SE]

[mid–late 19C] gin.

cold cunt (v.) [cunt n. (1); pun on SE colloq. cold-shoulder]

[1970s+] (lesbian) to ignore, to brush off.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

cold fang (v.) [fang v.1 (1)]

[1960s+] (Aus.) to ask a stranger for money.

cold-finger man (n.)

[1940s] a pickpocket, esp. one who steals from coatrooms and cloakrooms.

cold fish (n.) (also cold-blooded fish) [fish n.1 (4)]

[1910s+] an unemotional person; also as v., to be sexually unresponsive.

cold footer (n.) (also cold-foot)

1. [1910s+] (mainly Aus.) a timid, nervous person (usu. in context of military service); thus cold-footed, timid, cowardly.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1.

cold four (n.) [SE four-ale, beer sold at fourpence a quart]

[late 19C–1900s] the cheapest variety of beer.

cold gold (n.) [advertising slogan for Toohey’s KB lager: ‘Shake hands with a cold gold’]

[1980s+] (Aus.) a can of beer.

cold gruel (n.) [mid-19C]

1. bad luck.

2. a snub.

cold iron (n.)

[late 17C–early 19C] a sword.

cold meat (n.)

see separate entry.

cold muffin (n.)

[late 19C–1900s] anything mediocre, second-rate.

cold nantz (n.) [nantz n.]

[early 18C] brandy.

cold one (n.)

see separate entries.

cold pig (n.) [cf. naut. jargon cold norwester, a bucket of seawater poured over a new recruit as an initiation ceremony]

1. [mid-18C–mid-19C] a punishment or joke in which the bedclothes are stripped off a sleeper or cold water is poured over them; usu. in phr. give cold pig.

2. [mid-19C] (US Und.) one who has been robbed of their clothes.

cold pigging (n.) [? tailors’ j. cold pig: a suit that has been ordered but not paid for or collected; such garments, possibly after alteration, would be sold off at a reduced price]

[20C+] (Aus./N.Z.) hawking goods from door to door.

cold potato (n.)

see separate entry.

cold prowl (n.)

[1920s] (US Und.) breaking into a house while its owners are absent.

cold pudding (n.)

[late 18C–19C] anything considered worthless, second-rate.

cold quack (adv.) [punning var. on cold turkey adv. (3)]

[1960s] (drugs) of withdrawal from heroin addiction, sudden and total without tapering off or using any assistance from medication.

cold slaw (n.) [play on cabbage n.1 (1)/SE coleslaw]

[late 19C] (US) small off-cuts of material, taken from the job in hand and sold off as perks by tailors.

cold snot (n.)

[1970s] (Aus.) a disparaging ref. to an individual; inference is a lack of human warmth.

cold steel (n.)

[1980s+] (Aus. drugs/prison) a hypodermic syringe.

cold storage (n.)

see separate entries.

cold tea (n.) [the colour; note tea n.]

1. [late 17C–18C] hard liquor, e.g. brandy, whisky.

2. [1900s] (US) beer.

cold turkey

see separate entries.

cold water (n.) (also cold tea) [their favourite drink + ? ref. to Salvation Army]

1. [late 19C–1900s] a generic term for teetotalism, abstinence; usu. attrib.; thus cold water army, the teetotal movement.

2. [mid-19C-1910s] a generic term for temperance campaigners.

In phrases

cold as... (adj.)

see separate entry.

cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey (adj.)

see separate entry.

colder than... (adj.)

see separate entry.

do cold with (v.)

[20C+] (W.I.) to not be on speaking terms with.

get someone in the cold (v.)

[1900s] (orig. US) to have at one’s mercy, to have at a disadvantage.

go cold at (v.)

[1920s+] (Aus.) to scold, to blame, to reprimand.