The morning grey had given way, in the sudden English fashion, to a brilliant, gelid afternoon.
Zoë Heller, Notes on a scandal

Gelid, adjective
Very cold; icy.
From Latin gelidus, icy cold, from gel(um), frost, cold.
I love being surprised by an unusual word when reading a novel. I had never come across "gelid" and it delighted me, maybe because it is one of these words that start off in a very familiar fashion (a host of French words coming from gelum gel, gelé, gelée, geler, gelure, etc.) but ends rather less predictably. Somehow I find it so much more evocative than "freezing", "bitter" or "icy", but that’s probably only because these are so much more widely used and, frankly, leave me a little cold.

By |2016-10-18T15:49:52+00:00June 18th, 2007|Words|6 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. trevor June 18, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    There’s a town on a north-facing slope near Barcelona called Gelida. A local businessman told me that it owes its name to the Moors, but that seems unlikely.

  2. chiara June 19, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Really interesting. Gelido is a very common Italian word (I translate icy with gelido), while gelid is a rare word in English – never thought about that.

  3. James June 19, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    we have gélido in spanish, but it´s archaic and not the average word you use: pretty much the same register as gelid as far as I can tell.
    I miss that sort of epiphany in English (I have forsworn reading English apart from essential work stuff for the next year,and though i am frequently hit with new words in Spanish there are still too many of them for it to be a pleasure, especially getting used to the differences between European and American spanish)

  4. James June 19, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    Oh and a PS, I presume you know the germanic equivalent which is “rime” meaning frost.

  5. céline June 20, 2007 at 8:19 am

    I only knew "frío" in Spanish and no, I had never come across "rime" ("givre" in French) so thanks a lot for sharing!

  6. lektu June 23, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    FWIW, “gélido” is perhaps not a everyday word, but I wouldn’t call it archaic. If you use it in a casual conversation no one is going to have trouble understanding it.

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