What Does Cold Shoulder Mean?

Give the Cold Shoulder Meaning

Definition: To be intentionally cruel or distant by ignoring someone.

To give the cold shoulder to someone is to ignore that person’s desires. When giving something the cold shoulder, you might literally ignore what another person is saying or you may intentionally be rude.

If one person is speaking and another replies curtly by saying “mhmm” and giving other short replies, they may be giving the cold shoulder.

Giving someone the cold shoulder is meant to be offensive to that person. It is an action meant to hurt that person’s feelings.

Origin of Give the Cold Shoulder

This phrase comes from the old tradition of giving visitors a warm meal. This was, and still is in many cases, the way to welcome visitors to a home.

In the old days, if you wanted to welcome someone to your home, you might prepare a large meal—a warm meal of roasted meat was quite common.

origin of cold shoulderVisitors who were not welcome, or those who overstayed their welcome, in a house were given subpar food that was not warmed in order to hasten their leaving the home. As rumors go, unwelcome guests were often given a cold shoulder of mutton for dinner. There is not definite proof for this story, but it is the most often-cited origin story.

It seems this phrase comes from Scotland, as there are several written uses of it in Scottish texts dating as far back as the 1800s.

One famous example from Sir Walter Scott in 1824 includes the phrase,

  • I must tip him the cold shoulder, or he will be pestering me eternally.

Examples of Give the Cold Shoulder

define cold shoulderIf someone who is constantly annoying you tries to make plans, you might give him or her the cold shoulder.

For example, you may say,

  • Kerri always wants to join our team for bowling, but she doesn’t show up to the practices or games on time. I think we should just give her the cold shoulder.

This is a way of saying that Kerri will be ignored.

More Examples

  • In May 2015, the Spanos family turned a cold shoulder to a $1.3-billion financing plan for a replacement that would have demanded $121 million in public funding each from taxpayers of the city and county of San Diego, plus the $225-million proceeds of the sale of city land to private developers. – LA Times
  • Another Washington social tradition is getting the cold shoulder from President Trump… – The Washington Post

Summary

The phrase to give the cold shoulder is to ignore someone or be deliberately cold.