In Hebrew and in French there are phrases to describe very cold weather which use animals.

Hebrew: kor klavim - literally: dog cold.

French: un froid de canard - literally: duck cold.

Is there such a phrase in English?

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    Also in Italian: Fa un freddo cane.
    – Lonidard
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 16:04
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    In German: Saukalt - literally: pig cold
    – Manfred
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 16:50
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    If witches are considered animals, there's another saying. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 18:29
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    Тhe Hebrew phrase is a calque from Russian (Italian source is unlikely). Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 23:31
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    I think English has "beastly cold", so you don't have to discriminate on the basis of species. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


Something that might fit along your lines are variations on the phrase X dog night, where X is some number. Thesaurus.com offers synonyms for two-dog night, but strangely no actual definition. The synonym subcategories are cold, freezing, and shivery.

Urban Dictionary lists three-dog nights as:

In the old days of no central heating, a night so cold it took 3 dogs sleeping with you to keep you warm enough.
Example: Man, last night was real cold, definitely a three dog night.

And the website iheartdogs attempts to give more details behind 3 dog night:

The geographic source of this phrase has been debated time and again. No one is sure whether it originated in the Australian outback or the northern reaches of North America with the Eskimos. The meaning, however, is quite clear. The phrase is a rudimentary nightly temperature gauge. Dogs huddled with humans at night for the warmth. On really cold nights, three dogs were called into the bed to keep the owner from freezing to death. The phrase was cemented in literature by Jane Resh Thomas’ book Courage at Indian Deep

I first heard the term on weather forecasts from Gary England in Oklahoma, but have heard it quite a few times.

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    The stories I've heard is that it's an Eskimo term -- how many sled dogs do you bring into the igloo to keep you warm at night.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 13:31
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    I've heard it as how many sled dogs will tolerate each other's closeness at night, as normally they want some space around themselves while sleeping. And of course, the song "On the Road to Shambala."
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 16:31

You have brass monkey weather which is an informal BrE expression meaning:

extremely cold weather.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

From World Wide Words:

  • The full expansion of the phrase is cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey and is common throughout the English-speaking world, though much better known now in Australia and New Zealand than elsewhere.
  • This is perhaps surprising, since we know it was first recorded in the USA, in the 1850s. It is often reduced to the elliptical form that you give (perhaps in deference to polite society — for the same reason, it has been modified in the US into freeze the tail off a brass monkey).
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    @you cad sir - take that - yes, that is the more common assumption but the etymology is not certain. More details can be found in the link posted in my answer.
    – user66974
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 13:16
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    @youcadsir-takethat: While appealing, it doesn't sound physically plausible. The difference in shrinkage between brass and iron -- or even the shrinkage of brass in itself -- would be very slight, whereas a triangle used to keep cannonballs in a pyramid would have to shrink a great deal to go from a sensible design to letting go of the cannonballs.
    – LarsH
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 15:13
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    FWIW, I'm American, and I have never heard the bawdlerized "tail off" version. It is always "balls off." (Also, the canon ball rack thing was a hoax.)
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 16:28
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    never heard of it. American English, high plains variety. Definitely sounds British. I think we would go for the welk-digger's ass or the witch's tit as our cold standards. ;)
    – user175542
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 22:25
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    well-digger, not welk-digger, dadgummit.
    – user175542
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 22:26

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