European Winter Idioms

Though we may use winter idioms like ‘tip of the iceberg’ or ‘walking on thin ice’ all year round, we think these fun international expressions are best served up on a cold winter’s night. As daylight saving time (DST) comes to end, shorter days and longer nights mean winter is on its way. And while our Los Angeles team is enjoying another endless summer, here in Berlin we’re already piling on scarves and digging out spare blankets to stay warm. Use these idioms when you’re enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, ice skating with friends or bundled up on your way to work:


Schnee von gestern : Yesterday’s snow

The English version of this expression would be ‘yesterday’s news,’ used to describe something that is passé and no longer relevant. It is information that everyone already knows but no one particularly cares about anymore.

Die Kuh vom Eis holen : Rescue the cow from the ice

This idiom is used in situations where you must finish things at the last minute or make a snap decision in a time-sensitive situation. After all, in order to get a cow off of ice, you must think strategically.



Det är ingen ko på isen : There’s no cow on the ice

The counterpart of the former idiom, this Swedish expression is used to imply that there is no need to worry or stress about a situation.


Il fait un froid de canard : It’s duck-like cold

This expression is rooted in fact: ducks move from lakes to warmer areas on land throughout the winter months. The ducks may escape the freezing water, but are then left vulnerable to hunters. The phrase is used to describe bitterly cold weather.

Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison : Christmas on the balcony, Easter at the embers

You may only be able to use this expression twice a year, as it calls upon a bit of Holiday luck. The saying jokes that if you’re fortunate enough to have a mild enough winter that you can spend Christmas on the balcony, then you will probably be spending Easter huddled around a fire, or vice-versa.


Ser blanco como la nieve : To be white like the snow

Similar to saying “snow white” in English, this is a straightforward description of something that is pure white in color. It has also been used in literature as a metaphor that implies purity.


Effetto palla di neve : The snowball effect

Much like its English counterpart, this idiom is a metaphor for a process that starts small but builds upon itself, becoming larger and more serious. Like a snowball rolling down a hill at full speed and collecting snow, the momentum implies either a virtuous or disastrous result.


Z choinki się urwałaś? : Did you fall from a Christmas tree?

This idiom would be said to call out someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Typically used in a sarcastic manner, it is meant to embarrass someone who isn’t well-informed about a situation.

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