noun Informal.

a freezing over of a body of water in an area.
a period of below-freezing temperatures.
the condition of being immobilized or inoperative through freezing: car engine freeze-up in winter.

Origin of freeze-up

1875–80, Americanism; noun use of verb phrase freeze up



verb (used without object), froze, fro·zen, freez·ing.

to become hardened into ice or into a solid body; change from the liquid to the solid state by loss of heat.
to become hard or stiffened because of loss of heat, as objects containing moisture: Meat will freeze in a few hours.
to suffer the effects of intense cold; have the sensation of extreme cold: We sat there freezing until the heat came on.
to be of the degree of cold at which water freezes: It may freeze tonight.
to lose warmth of feeling; be stunned or chilled with fear, shock, etc.: My heart froze when she told me the news.
to become immobilized through fear, shock, etc.: When he got in front of the audience he froze.
to stop suddenly and remain motionless; halt: I froze in my tracks.
to become obstructed by the formation of ice, as pipes: Our basement water pipes often freeze in winter.
to die or be injured because of frost or cold.
(of a screw, nail, or the like) to become rigidly fixed in place, as from rust or dirt.
to become fixed to something by or as if by the action of frost.
to become unfriendly, secretive, or aloof (often followed by up): He froze at such a personal question.
to become temporarily inoperable; cease to function (often followed by up): The new software made my computer freeze.

verb (used with object), froze, fro·zen, freez·ing.

to harden into ice; change from a fluid to a solid form by loss of heat; congeal.
to form ice on the surface of (a river, pond, etc.).
to harden or stiffen (an object containing moisture) by cold.
to quick-freeze.
to subject to freezing temperature; place in a freezer or in the freezing compartment of a refrigerator.
to cause to suffer the effects of intense cold; produce the sensation of extreme cold in.
to cause to lose warmth as if by cold; chill with fear; dampen the enthusiasm of.
to cause (a person or animal) to become fixed through fright, alarm, shock, etc.: Terror froze him to the steering wheel.
to kill by frost or cold: A late snow froze the buds.
to fix fast with ice: a sled frozen to a sidewalk.
to obstruct or close (a pipe or the like) by the formation of ice: The storm had frozen the hydrant.
to fix (rents, prices, etc.) at a specific amount, usually by government order.
to stop or limit production, use, or development of: an agreement to freeze nuclear weapons.
Finance. to render impossible of liquidation or collection: Bank loans are frozen in business depressions.
Surgery. to render part of the body insensitive to pain or slower in its function by artificial means.
  1. play a wild card on (the discard pile) so as to make it frozen.
  2. eliminate (other players) in a game of freezeout.
to photograph (a moving subject) at a shutter speed fast enough to produce an unblurred, seemingly motionless image.
Movies. to stop by means of a freeze-frame mechanism: You can freeze the action at any point.
Sports. to maintain possession of (a ball or puck) for as long as possible, usually without trying to score, thereby reducing the opponent's opportunities for scoring.
Ice Hockey. to hold (a puck) against the boards with the skates or stick, causing play to stop and forcing a face-off.


the act of freezing; state of being frozen.
Also called ice-up. Meteorology. a widespread occurrence of temperatures below 32°F (0°C) persisting for at least several days: A freeze is expected in the coastal areas.
a frost.
a legislative action, especially in time of national emergency, to control prices, rents, production, etc.: The government put a freeze on new construction.
a decision by one or more nations to stop or limit production or development of weapons, especially nuclear weapons.

Verb Phrases

freeze on/onto, Informal. to adhere closely to; hold on; seize.
freeze out, to exclude or compel (somebody) to withdraw from membership, acceptance, a position of influence or advantage, etc., by cold treatment or severe competition.
freeze over, to coat or become coated with ice: The lake freezes over for several months each year.

Origin of freeze

before 1000; (v.) Middle English fresen, Old English frēosan; cognate with Middle Low German vrēsen, Old Norse frjōsa, Old High German friosan (German frieren); (noun) late Middle English frese, derivative of the v.
Related formsfreez·a·ble, adjectivefreez·a·bil·i·ty, nounde·freeze, verb (used with object), de·froze, de·fro·zen, de·freez·ing.non·freez·a·ble, adjectivepost·freeze, adjectivepre·freeze, verb (used with object), pre·froze, pre·fro·zen, pre·freez··freez·a·ble, adjectivere·freeze, verb, re·froze, re·fro·zen, re·freez·ing.un·freez·a·ble, adjective
Can be confusedfreeze frieze Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for freeze-up

Historical Examples of freeze-up

  • There was nothing whatever to read in the cabin, and they had been there since the freeze-up!

  • That the freeze-up might come any day was patent, and delays of safety were no longer considered.

    The Red One

    Jack London

  • I haven't been shooting any since the freeze-up because they can't do any great damage.

    Swamp Cat

    James Arthur Kjelgaard

  • The last river boat before the freeze-up had long since gone.

    The Yukon Trail

    William MacLeod Raine

  • Gold-seekers who made in before the freeze-up carried the news of his coming.

    The Faith of Men

    Jack London

British Dictionary definitions for freeze-up


noun informal

a period of freezing or extremely cold weather
US and Canadian
  1. the freezing of lakes, rivers, and topsoil in autumn or early winter
  2. the time of year when this occurs


verb freezes, freezing, froze (frəʊz) or frozen (ˈfrəʊzən)

to change (a liquid) into a solid as a result of a reduction in temperature, or (of a liquid) to solidify in this way, esp to convert or be converted into ice
(when intr, sometimes foll by over or up) to cover, clog, or harden with ice, or become so covered, clogged, or hardenedthe lake froze over last week
to fix fast or become fixed (to something) because of the action of frost
(tr) to preserve (food) by subjection to extreme cold, as in a freezer
to feel or cause to feel the sensation or effects of extreme cold
to die or cause to die of frost or extreme cold
to become or cause to become paralysed, fixed, or motionless, esp through fear, shock, etche froze in his tracks
(tr) to cause (moving film) to stop at a particular frame
to decrease or cause to decrease in animation or vigour
to make or become formal, haughty, etc, in manner
(tr) to fix (prices, incomes, etc) at a particular level, usually by government direction
(tr) to forbid by law the exchange, liquidation, or collection of (loans, assets, etc)
(tr) to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or use of (something specified)
(tr) to stop (a process) at a particular stage of development
(tr) informal to render (tissue or a part of the body) insensitive, as by the application or injection of a local anaesthetic
(intr foll by onto) informal, mainly US to cling


the act of freezing or state of being frozen
meteorol a spell of temperatures below freezing point, usually over a wide area
the fixing of incomes, prices, etc, by legislation
another word for frost

sentence substitute

mainly US a command to stop still instantly or risk being shot
Derived Formsfreezable, adjective

Word Origin for freeze

Old English frēosan; related to Old Norse frjōsa, Old High German friosan, Latin prūrīre to itch; see frost
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 freeze-up



Old English freosan "turn to ice" (class II strong verb; past tense freas, past participle froren), from Proto-Germanic *freusanan (cf. Old Norse frjosa, Old High German friosan, German frieren "to freeze," Gothic frius "frost"), from Proto-Germanic *freus-, equivalent to PIE root *preus- "to freeze," also "to burn" (cf. Sanskrit prusva, Latin pruina "hoarfrost," Welsh rhew "frost," Sanskrit prustah "burnt," Albanian prus "burning coals," Latin pruna "a live coal").

Transitive sense first recorded 14c., figurative sense c.1400. Meaning "become rigid or motionless" attested by 1720. Sense of "fix at a certain level, make non-transactable" is 1922. Freeze frame is from 1960, originally "a briefly Frozen Shot after the Jingle to allow ample time for Change over at the end of a T.V. 'Commercial.' " ["ABC of Film & TV," 1960].



c.1400, from freeze (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

freeze-up in Medicine




To pass from the liquid to the solid state by loss of heat.
To make or become congealed, stiffened, or hardened by exposure to cold.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

freeze-up in Science



To change from a liquid to a solid state by cooling or being cooled to the freezing point.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.