19 Old Cold Weather Words to Get You Through Winter

iStock.com/MarianVejcik
iStock.com/MarianVejcik

There are only so many ways to say “it’s cold outside,” and at this point in the winter, you may have exhausted all of them. Which is why it’s time to supplement your vocabulary with these vintage gems. They may technically be old, but to you, they’ll feel as new as a layer of freshly fallen snow.

1. ICE-LEGS

If sea-legs are a person’s ability to walk safely around a ship at sea, then ice-legs are the wintertime equivalent: It’s the ability to walk or skate on ice without falling over.

2. CRULE

To crule can mean to shiver with cold—or to crouch by a fire to warm up.

3. MEGGLE

Meggle is an old Scots word meaning "to trudge laboriously through mud or snow."

4. AQUABOB

An 18th-century word for an icicle. Also called ice-shoggles, ice-candles, or ice-shackles. A drop of water from an icicle is an icelet or a meldrop.

5. SNOW-BONES

They’re the lines of snow or ice left at the sides of roads after the rest of the snow has melted. Which will probably be around June.

6. MOBLE

To moble is to wrap up your head with a hood. More loosely, it’s used to mean to wear layers of clothes to keep warm.

7. MUFFLEMENTS

An old Lancashire dialect word for thick, warm, insulating clothes. (In other words, you might "moble your mufflements.")

8. HAPWARM

Hap is an old Yorkshire word for a heavy fall of snow, and likewise, hapwarm is an 18th-century dialect word for a heavy, all-covering item of clothing, worn to keep in the heat and keep out the cold.

9. HOGAMADOG

When you roll a snowball through a field of snow and it slowly gets bigger and bigger? That’s a hogamadog. (A regular old snowball can also be a winter apple.)

10. MOORKAVIE

Probably derived from an old Norse word, kave, meaning “a heavy snowfall or shower of rain,” moorkaavie is a Scots dialect word for a blinding snowstorm. The moor part is thought to be an old word for a crowd or swarm.

11. LAYING-WEATHER

An 18th-century expression for any weather condition in which snow lies on the ground.

12. SNOW-BLOSSOM

Spangle, flauchten, and snow-blossom are all old words for snowflakes …

13. CLART

… while a single flake of snow large enough to stick to your clothes is a clart.

14. PECK-OF-APPLES

An old English dialect nickname for a slip or fall on ice.

15. RONE

Rone (also called ronnie) is an old Scots word for a sheet or patch of ice that children use to slide on.

16. PUNDER

When the wind blows the snow off or away from something, that’s pundering.

17. ICE-BOLT

As well as being another name for an avalanche, the word ice-bolt was coined in the late 1700s for a sudden sharp feeling of the cold.

18. SNOW-BROTH

A 17th-century word for the water released by melting snow.

19. SHURL

When all the snow slides off a roof after it begins to thaw, that’s a shurl.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

13 Words That Changed From Negative to Positive Meanings (or Vice Versa)

grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images
grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images

One of the main reasons for the existence of slang is to keep the outsiders from understanding the insiders. Making up new words is one way to achieve this, but it’s not the only one. A favorite trick for the young to play on the old is to take an established word and completely change its connotations from bad to good. In recent decades we’ve seen sick, wicked, ill, and bad recruited to the “hearty positive endorsement” side. While some would lament the decline of language suggested by such wanton disregard for word meaning, this kind of meaning switch is nothing new. Here are 13 fine, upstanding words that long ago switched from negative to positive (or vice versa).

1. Fun

Fun was first a verb meaning "to cheat or hoax." It came from fon, an old word for "fool." It still retains some of that sense in “make fun of,” but now also means "a merry good time."

2. Fond

Fond also goes back to fon, and it once meant "foolish and weak-minded." It came to then mean over-affectionate in a negative, cloying way. Now it’s positive, but at root, being fond of something is basically being a fool for it.

3. Terrific

The root of terrific is terror, and it first meant terror-inducing. It then became an exaggerated intensifier (“terrifically good!” = so good it’s terrifying) and then a positive term all on its own.

4. Tremendous

Like terrific, tremendous has its roots in fear. Something tremendous was so terrible it caused trembling or shaking. It also became an intensifier (“tremendously good!”) before it went all the way positive.

5. Awe

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, awe originally referred to “immediate and active fear.” It then became associated with religious, reverential fear, and then to a feeling of being humbled at the sublime. While awful retains the negative sense, awesome took on the positive one.

6. Grin

To grin was to bare the teeth in a threatening display of anger or pain. It then became the term for a forced, fake smile, before settling into an expression of happiness.

7. Smart

Smart was first used in Old English to describe things that cause pain. Weapons, nails, and darts were smart. Shakespeare’s Henry VI has the phrase “as smart as lizards’ stings.” It took on connotations of sharpness, quickness, intensity, and, through smart, pain-causing words or wit came to stand for quick intelligence and fashionableness.

8. Egregious

Egregious was a positive word that turned negative. It used to mean "eminent and distinguished," but because people started using it sarcastically, it came to mean "bad and offensive."

9. Sad

Sad started with the meaning of "satisfied or sated," also sometimes "steadfast" or "firm." It then went from meaning "serious," to "grave," to "sorrowful."

10. Smug

Smug first meant "crisp, tidy, and presentable." A well-dressed person was smug in this way, and it later came to mean "self-satisfied and conceited."

11. Devious

Devious comes from de via, "off the way." It once meant "distant" or "off the road." It took on the meaning of wandering—there were devious comets, devious minnows—and, because to do wrong was to stray from the right path, it eventually came to mean "scheming and deceitful."

12. Facetious

To be facetious was once to have elegant, gracious, high style, and to be jokey and witty. It came from a Latin term for playful humorousness. It is still connected with a type of humor, but with an unproductive or annoying connotation.

13. Bully

Bully used to be a term of endearment for men or women. A bully could be a good friend or a sweetheart. It then came to stand for a swaggering braggart and than a coward who picks on others.

This list was first published in 2015 and republished in 2019.

22 Weird Jobs From 100 Years Ago

Metal Floss via YouTube
Metal Floss via YouTube

Before everyone started working in tech, people actually had their choice of eclectic and strange vocations that put food on their old-timey tables. Discover what lamplighters, lectores, and knocker-uppers did back in the day as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy runs down 22 Weird Old Jobs from 100 Years Ago.

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