out cold


Also, out for the count; out like a light. Unconscious; also, asleep. For example, He crashed into the wall and was out cold, or Willie punched him too hard, and he was out for the count or Don't call Jane; she's out like a light by ten every night. The adjective cold refers to the lack of heat in a dead body and has been used to mean “unconscious” since the second half of the 1800s. The first variant comes from boxing, where a fighter who is knocked down must get up before the referee counts to ten or be declared defeated; it dates from about 1930. The last variant alludes to turning out a light and dates from the first half of the 1900s.

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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.