What Does Catch a Cold Mean?

To Catch a Cold Meaning

Definition: To contract a common cold virus.

The phrase to catch a cold means to become infected with a common cold virus. It is sometimes shortened to catch cold. This phrase was first used around the 17th century.

The original idiom was catch your death as a result of exposure to cold weather. This is because the common cold was deadly during that time. It is unclear how this phrase evolved to its current usage.

Ways to Use To Catch a Cold

The verb catch has a few different idiomatic meanings in English. In this context, it means to acquire something, most commonly an illness. The meaning of catch in an English phrase or idiom will depend on the context.

did you catch a coldOther idiomatic meanings of catch include to listen to or view something, most often an event or program. If someone says he has caught a cold, this does not mean he has seen or listened to a cold.

Similarly, if someone says he caught the newest episode of his favorite TV show, this does not mean he became infected with an illness.

Though both idioms use the same verb, they have completely different meanings. Deciphering the meaning of an idiom that contains the word catch is usually straightforward as long as the listener pays attention to the context.

Examples of To Catch a Cold

i catch a coldIf someone says he has caught or might catch a cold, this means he has become or is likely to become ill. An example conversation between a mother and her young daughter illustrates the correct use of this phrase.

Mom: Make sure you put on your coat before you go outside.

Daughter: But I don’t want to!

Mom: You have to, or else you’ll catch a cold.

More Examples

  • Want to avoid catching a cold this winter? Start by getting more than six hours of sleep a night. –NY Times
  • In the United States, adults can expect to catch a cold two to four times a year, and children can expect to get six to 10 colds annually. –USA Today


The English phrase to catch a cold means to become infected with the common cold.