Last night, I walked home from my bus stop (in Belgium). Since it was around 11 PM, it was quite cold, probably only about 4-5 °C. However, it didn't actually feel cold at all, and I didn't feel like I had to rush to get home for the cold. In fact, I didn't have headwear on, but I didn't get cold ears. It was about the same temperature as this morning, but the difference is that this morning felt a lot colder, probably due to the wind and drizzle.

I tried to describe it in English on Twitter, but I couldn't actually find a proper word to decribe it. I considered "a warm cold" or "a cozy cold", but I thought these were too poetic, more like something you'd use in a fairy tale than in a tweet to a handful of followers.

How can you describe that temperature without it becoming confusing or poetic?

  • 1
    We tend to use "Frisky" round our way...
    – Matt
    Nov 18, 2014 at 16:54
  • 4
    @Matt, that's excellent, 'frisky' means 'randy' round here. :)
    – A E
    Nov 18, 2014 at 17:03
  • @AE It means the same 'round here, but both meanings have currency here. Nov 19, 2014 at 20:55

10 Answers 10


In American English, we describe cold weather in a positive sense as crisp. As if the cold air hitting your face has a pleasant "breaking" to it.

A Google search for "define crisp" yields this definition, among others:

(of the weather) cool, fresh, and invigorating.
  • 3
    I love using crisp. It's exactly how I describe most fall mornings in the desert when it's anywhere from 40-55F. Seems to be the most fitting word for the above too. Nov 18, 2014 at 17:42
  • I think crisp describes the temperature, while brisk describes the wind. Nov 18, 2014 at 17:45
  • 1
    Crisp to me is a combination: it’s cold (might even be very cold), but it’s dry, still, and clear skies, so the wind-chill factor is insignificant. Whether 4–5° Celsius (around 40° Fahrenheit) is really cold enough in a place like Belgium that I’d use crisp is another matter. I don’t really think it is, but I’m sure there’s a lot of variation there. Nov 18, 2014 at 18:32
  • I grew up speaking American English, and I've never heard anyone say "breaking" in that way. Did you mean bracing? Nov 20, 2014 at 8:13
  • I was referring more to the literal dictionary definition of "breakable." Nov 20, 2014 at 13:33

That sounds 'a bit brisk' to me.


(Of wind or the weather) cold but pleasantly invigorating:

  • A cold, brisk wind fills the square on a grey Saturday afternoon.
  • Though the wind was brisk and chilly, the sun was bright and warm.
  • The September night was chilly, with a brisk wind picking up, but neither seemed to notice.

Here in the UK it's often (though not always) used as a form of humorous understatement, for example on the coldest day of the year you might say "oooh, it's a bit brisk out, isn't it?" c.f. "Nice weather for ducks!"

If it's less cold than you expected then it's mild. As in, "we had a mild winter".


(Of weather) moderately warm, especially less cold than expected:

Tropical continental air is very dry and tends to bring very warm weather during the summer and unseasonably mild weather during the winter.

Plants suffer most when warm / mild weather is suddenly replaced with cold.

October has come round again and the weather is still mild, with the cold snap we had last weekend coming as a shock.

It sounds reet parky!

Example usage: https://www.flickr.com/photos/heandfi/4141559844/

  • 6
    I would actually not use brisk in this context, because it implies quite heavily that there’s a wind (and oftentimes also a bit of a drizzle) and therefore invigorating. In Nate’s example, the major reason that it didn’t feel cold was that it was still and dry. “It was only 4° outside, but it was brisk, so I didn’t need my gloves” sounds … very odd to me. Nov 18, 2014 at 17:45
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, 'brisk' can just refer to chilliness here in the UK, but I'm sure that international usage does vary. Probably it even varies through the UK. :)
    – A E
    Nov 18, 2014 at 17:58
  • 2
    I think the main reason it doesn’t work for me is that brisk (like chilly) is implicitly opposed to something warmer, not something colder—the comparison has to be made explicit to be with a colder-than-brisk temperature. If it’s in the middle of winter and you leave the house and say, “Ooh, it’s brisk/chilly today!”, I would never interpret that as meaning that it’s less cold than you expected it to be. [Please excuse the sentence breakdown in my previous comment. Rearranged it halfway through and forgot to rearrange the second half of it.] Nov 18, 2014 at 18:27
  • 1
    If something feels brisk it means it does feel cold, which is the opposite of the OP's experience. Nov 19, 2014 at 2:29
  • 1
    "oooh, it's a bit brisk out, isn't it?" - you gotta love the British sense of humour! :)
    – userfuser
    Nov 19, 2014 at 9:58

mplungjan's Fresh is a very good suggestion, but have you considered calling it cool rather than
"{adjective} cold"?

Describes the low temperature and implies no discomfort (or you would have used something more harsh than cool)

  • 1
    The problem with that is that no matter how mild it feels, nobody except an Eskimo and people in Siberia and Winnipeg would hear the word cool and think of temperatures around 4–5° Celsius. That is definitely cold territory, even if the mildness makes it not feel uncomfortable. Nov 18, 2014 at 17:42
  • 1
    It seems you're concentrating on the reported temperature and not the OP's description of the experience. Cool, cold, warm, hot - it's relative and subjective.
    – itsbruce
    Nov 18, 2014 at 21:28
  • 5
    @JanusBahsJacquet I would, and I’m from New York City. That’s T-shirt and sandals weather, as far as I’m concerned.
    – KRyan
    Nov 18, 2014 at 23:18

Nate, several factors influence the way cold temperatures are perceived by the body. It may have been around 5ºC but, with no wind and very low humidity, it may have felt relatively pleasant. The reason is that under such circumstances, it will take longer for the exposed skin to cool and for our body to perceive it is really cold. we could then say...

It was pleasantly cool.

It was around freezing but it felt very mild.

"mild" - not cold, severe, or extreme; temperate: a mild winter.

  • 1
    Mild was the first word that popped into my mind, too. Nov 18, 2014 at 17:36
  • 1
    If something is around freezing it can't also be mild. You could say: Despite the low temperatures, the air was relatively mild.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 18, 2014 at 19:21
  • "pleasantly cool" would be my choice and I think it is the best answer.
    – ermanen
    Nov 19, 2014 at 2:45
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA "around freezing", by that I mean "around freezing point", 32ºF or 0ºC. In the U.S. it's common to hear "it's around freezing outside"
    – Centaurus
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:13

I also like


although it doesn't necessarily mean cold.

  • 3
    If it's bracing outside, I better put on hat and earmuffs. The opposite to the situation the OP is trying to describe. Nov 19, 2014 at 2:29
  • From the link (OED): 1. Fresh and invigorating: 'the bracing sea air' Nov 19, 2014 at 17:30
  • @GreenAsJade, ask anyone from Skegness. Nov 20, 2014 at 9:09

If you're comfortable with a multi word answer, cold but pleasant might do the trick.

Other antonyms to a harsh cold might be mild or moderate cold, even easy cold


I realize this doesn't serve the single-word tag, but perhaps you could separate the temperature from your perception:

'I was unaffected by the cold' or 'I didn't feel the cold'

With your description of the morning you could state: 'compared with the rainy wind in the morning, it didn't feel cold.'

  • "unaffected" by temperature due to climate +1
    – Mazura
    Nov 20, 2014 at 2:11

"Real Feel" is the word which is used in accuweather. Usually morning is more colder than nights beacuse in morning we are coming out of "warm home" and till night we become used to.


I would say "chilly" or a "nip" in the air.

  • 4
    Chilly is more "uncomfortably cold", according to Google. It was cold, but it wasn't uncomfortably cold.
    – Nzall
    Nov 18, 2014 at 13:11
  • 3
    And a "nip" is definitely an uncomfortable cold. It specifically describes the discomfort.
    – itsbruce
    Nov 18, 2014 at 13:36
  • For some reason, it made me remember about one of south park's episodes where Eric is measuring everybody's dongs, and he pulls down Butters' pants to measure Butters' and Butters says: "It's really chilly in here fellers". Anyway, chilly is that uncomfortable cold, crisp would fit it better
    – Kyle
    Dec 8, 2015 at 11:57

Technically, the condition is produced by low humidity and lack of wind. I would suggest using something like "frosty stillness". Also, if you are under trees, you can pick up infrared radiation from the trees themselves that actually does warm you. In that case, you could mention the trees, such as "the warm embrace of trees in the frosty night".

  • The OP is specifically asking for something that has currency and isn't resting on poetic license. Nov 19, 2014 at 20:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.