in cold blood


In a purposely ruthless and unfeeling manner, as in The whole family was murdered in cold blood. This expression alludes to the notion that blood is the seat of emotion and is hot in passion and cold in calm. The term therefore means not “in the heat of passion,” but “in a calculated, deliberate manner.” [Late 1500s]

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