Old English cald (Anglian), ceald (West Saxon) "producing strongly the sensation which results when the temperature of the skin is lowered," also "having a low temperature," from Proto-Germanic *kaldjon (source also of Old Frisian and Old Saxon kald, Old High German and German kalt, Old Norse kaldr, Gothic kalds "cold"), from PIE root *gel- "cold; to freeze" (source also of Latin gelare "to freeze," gelu "frost," glacies "ice").
Sense of "unmoved by strong feeling" was in late Old English. Meaning "having a relatively low temperature, not heated" is from mid-13c. Sense of "dead" is from mid-14c. Meaning "not strong, affecting the senses only slightly" (in reference to scent or trails in hunting or tracking) is from 1590s; hence the extended sense in seeking-games, "distant from the object of search" (1864).
Cold front in weather is from 1921. Cold sweat is by 1630s. Cold-call (v.) in the sales pitch sense is recorded by 1964 (implied in cold-calling; the noun cold call is by 1953; cold-selling is from 1947). Cold comfort (by 1650s) is "little comfort, something which offers little cheer." Cold-cream "cooling unguent for the skin" is from 1709. To throw cold water on in the figurative sense "discourage by unexpected reluctance or indifference" is from 1808.
Japanese has two words for "cold:" samui for coldness in the atmosphere or environment; tsumetai for things which are cold to touch, and also in the figurative sense, with reference to personalities, behaviors, etc.
c. 1300, "coldness of an object to the touch, relative absence of heat," from cold (adj.). Meaning "sensation produced by loss of heat from the body or some part of it" is from c. 1200.
Sense of "indisposition involving catarrhal inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose or throat" is from 1530s, so called because the symptoms resemble those of exposure to cold; compare cold (n.) in earlier senses "indisposition or disease caused by excessive exposure to cold" (early 14c.), "chills of intermittent fever" (late 14c.). To be left out in the cold in the figurative sense is from 1861.
also coldblooded; 1590s, of persons, "without emotion, wanting usual sympathies, unfeeling;" of actions, from 1828. The phrase refers to the notion in old medicine that blood temperature rose with excitement. In the literal sense, of reptiles, etc., "having blood very little different in temperature from the surrounding environment," from c. 1600. From cold (adj.) + blood (n.). Related: Cold-bloodedly; cold-bloodedness.
1816, in the figurative sense of "icy reception, studied neglect or indifference," first in Sir Walter Scott, probably originally a literal figure (see cold (adj.)), 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]
Originally with to show, later to give. As a verb from 1845; related: cold-shouldered. Also compare cold roast, old slang for "something insignificant." Cold pig was a 19c. term for throwing cold water on a sleeping person to wake him or her.
1893, American English, in the figurative sense "fear or doubt that reverses an intention to do something;" the presumed Italian original (avegh minga frecc i pee) is a Lombard proverb meaning "to have no money," but some of the earliest English usages refer to gamblers, so a connection is possible.