Entries linking to acold
prefix or inseparable particle, a conglomerate of various Germanic and Latin elements.
In words derived from Old English, it commonly represents Old English an "on, in, into" (see on (prep.)), as in alive, above, asleep, aback, abroad, afoot, ashore, ahead, abed, aside, obsolete arank "in rank and file," etc., forming adjectives and adverbs from nouns, with the notion "in, at; engaged in." In this use it is identical to a (2).
It also can represent Middle English of (prep.) "off, from," as in anew, afresh, akin, abreast. Or it can be a reduced form of the Old English past participle prefix ge-, as in aware.
Or it can be the Old English intensive a-, originally ar- (cognate with German er- and probably implying originally "motion away from"), as in abide, arise, awake, ashamed, marking a verb as momentary, a single event. Such words sometimes were refashioned in early modern English as though the prefix were Latin (accursed, allay, affright are examples).
In words from Romanic languages, often it represents reduced forms of Latin ad "to, toward; for" (see ad-), or ab "from, away, off" (see ab-); both of which by about 7c. had been reduced to a in the ancestor of Old French. In a few cases it represents Latin ex.
[I]t naturally happened that all these a- prefixes were at length confusedly lumped together in idea, and the resultant a- looked upon as vaguely intensive, rhetorical, euphonic, or even archaic, and wholly otiose. [OED]
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.
updated on September 14, 2022