Weather is a frequent topic of conversation in any language, but winter in the United States is an especially common topic.  Not only are there low temperatures to moan about, but the winter season in many parts of the US also comes with several kinds of precipitation.

In today’s blog post we’ll look at vocabulary and phrases used to talk about winter temperatures and precipitation, as well as some common expressions and greetings Americans use in cold weather.

Temperature

Crisp (adj.) – cold and dry weather that feels relatively pleasant.  Usually a positive word.

Brisk (adj.) – similar to crisp, but usually implies winds and a less pleasant feeling.

Chilly (adj.) – the temperature is uncomfortably cold.

Cold (adj.) – a neutral word to describe uncomfortably low temperatures.  For stronger variations, try “freezing cold,” “biting cold,” or “bitter cold.”

Freezing (adj.) – extremely cold temperatures

Frigid (adj.) – extremely cold temperatures, usually implying frozen conditions outdoors.

Wind chill (n.) – the temperature that the outdoor air feels like.  Wind chill temperatures are always lower than the true temperature due to wind and humidity.

 

Precipitation

Flurry – light snowfall that usually melts on the ground.

Blizzard – a serious snow storm with winds and blowing snow that make it hard to see distant objects.

Whiteout – heavy snowfall that makes it hard to see anything.

Freezing rain – liquid rain that freezes once it hits a surface.

Sleet – a mixture of rain and snow.

Hail – solid lumps of ice that can occasionally become large enough to damage buildings and cars when they fall from the sky.

Black ice – a thin, slippery layer of clear (hard to see) ice, especially on roads and sidewalks.

Frost – light white ice that forms on the ground during the nighttime hours

 

Expressions

Bundle up – Americans often say “Bundle up!” to someone who is leaving to go outdoors in winter.  It is a friendly expression that shows you care about the comfort and wellbeing of the other person.

Dead of winter – the coldest, darkest period of winter.  Often used in late December through early February in many parts of the US.

Snowed in – Being “snowed in” means that there so much snow outdoors that it is impossible or impractical to go outside (especially to work or school).

Snow day – A day when work or school is canceled due to snow or other winter weather conditions.