I am not a native speaker of the English language but have been living in United Kingdom for last couple of years.

Once I was with my friend who was an Irish and I said "Its cold outside" and he said that I was wrong and should have said "Its cool outside".

I am still not sure why I was wrong?

Could someone really differentiate the use of word "cool" and "cold" in that case?

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  • 1
    When did your friend tell you this? If it was in spring or summer, then "cool" would have been more logical (although British spring time can be absolutely freezing!) Think of cool as being the opposite of warm, while cold is the opposite of hot. – Mari-Lou A Aug 1 '13 at 15:01
  • You're right it was early Spring time. – Makky Aug 1 '13 at 15:03
  • 1
    Bingo! Now you know why he said, cool. – Mari-Lou A Aug 1 '13 at 15:07
  • If you ever speak to South Africans, remember that there is a vast difference between a cold cut and a cool cat. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 1 '13 at 15:31
  • Closely Related or Duplicate: “Cool water” vs. “cold water” english.stackexchange.com/q/118246/14666 – Kris Aug 2 '13 at 6:57

It is a matter of degree (pun intended). Cold is colder than cool. He was telling you that (in his opinion) it was not as cold as you thought.

  • Edit: Adding @called2voyage's excellent point:

What he may have meant is that it was not cold enough to bother him.

  • This makes sense. So I would say "It cool outside" if its not very cold but kinda mildish? – Makky Aug 1 '13 at 15:02
  • Here are a couple of answers that explain the temperature word scale. But they are relative to what one expects and desires. If I have to add clothing to go outside, it's cool; if I have to add a lot of clothing, it's cold. – John Lawler Aug 1 '13 at 16:00
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    Another distinction often used between the two is comfort level. "Cold" generally means that one experiences some discomfort due to the coldness, whereas "cool" may not imply discomfort. Similarly, "warm" generally implies that the warmth is comfortable or at least not very uncomfortable, whereas "hot" implies discomfort. – called2voyage Aug 1 '13 at 18:14
  • of course comfort levels are very relative, so both Makky and his friend could have been right: cupola.com/html/wordplay/thermo1.htm (slightly exaggerated) – Dan Neely Aug 1 '13 at 19:32
  • See: “Cool water” vs. “cold water” english.stackexchange.com/q/118246/14666 – Kris Aug 2 '13 at 6:57

I would say that they have rather different meanings. When I imagine "cold," I think that it's near freezing. However, "cool" implies a more pleasant atmosphere. This answer is coming from an American English background.

  • American English located where in the USA? I would imagine that what's cold in San Fransisco, might be positively warm in New York? – TrevorD Aug 1 '13 at 17:02

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