[ kohld-shohl-der ]
/ ˈkoʊldˈʃoʊl dər /

verb (used with object)

to snub; show indifference to.

Origin of cold-shoulder

First recorded in 1810–20

Definition for cold-shoulder (2 of 2)

cold shoulder


a show of deliberate indifference or disregard.

Origin of cold shoulder

First recorded in 1810–20 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cold-shoulder

  • As to Frances, she behaved abominably, and turned the cold-shoulder to everybody.

  • One doesn't realize these things at first—neither of you will, till you see how dreadfully Society can cold-shoulder.

    Beyond|John Galsworthy
  • Swift does not at once fascinate and cold-shoulder him as he does to so many people.

    The Art of Letters|Robert Lynd

British Dictionary definitions for cold-shoulder

cold shoulder

/ informal /


the cold shoulder a show of indifference; a slight

verb cold-shoulder (tr)

to treat with indifference
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cold-shoulder

cold shoulder


1816, in the figurative sense of "icy reception," first in Sir Walter Scott, probably originally a literal figure, but commonly used with a punning reference to "cold shoulder of mutton," considered a poor man's dish and thus, perhaps, something one would set out for an unwanted guest with deliberate intention to convey displeasure.

How often have we admired the poor knight, who, to avoid the snares of bribery and dependence, was found making a second dinner from a cold shoulder of mutton, above the most affluent courtier, who had sold himself to others for a splendid pension! ["No Fiction," 1820]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for cold-shoulder

cold shoulder

To “give someone the cold shoulder” is to ignore someone deliberately: “At the party, Carl tried to talk to Suzanne, but she gave him the cold shoulder.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with cold-shoulder

cold shoulder

Deliberate coldness or disregard, a slight or snub. For example, When I said hello to her in the library, she gave me the cold shoulder and walked away. This term, which first appeared in writings by Sir Walter Scott and others, supposedly alludes to the custom of welcoming a desired guest with a meal of roasted meat, but serving only a cold shoulder of beef or lamb—a far inferior dish—to those who outstayed their welcome. [Early 1800s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.