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Chilly vs. Cold — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Updated on February 24, 2024
Chilly implies a mild, uncomfortable coolness, while cold denotes a stronger, often more unpleasant sensation of low temperature.
Chilly vs. Cold — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Chilly and Cold


Key Differences

Chilly is often used to describe conditions or sensations that are moderately cold, enough to cause a slight discomfort but not severe coldness. For instance, a chilly morning might require a light jacket, but not multiple layers of clothing. Cold, however, refers to a more significant degree of low temperature, potentially causing a need for substantial protection or warmth, like during a cold winter day that demands heavy clothing.
The term chilly can convey a subtle, brisk coolness that is more atmospheric or sensory, suggesting a freshness or nip in the air that is often seasonal or time-of-day specific, like the chilliness of an autumn evening. Cold, in contrast, can describe both physical sensations and objective temperatures, and is used in a broader range of contexts, from the literal coldness of ice to the figurative coldness of a demeanor.
Chilly often carries a less severe and more transient implication, suitable for describing temporary or mild coolness, such as the chilliness felt in a lightly air-conditioned room. Cold can imply a more enduring or intense experience of low temperatures, such as the coldness of a deep freezer or a prolonged winter season.
Chilly can have a somewhat pleasant or invigorating connotation, especially when associated with fresh, crisp air, while cold can have a more negative connotation, often associated with discomfort, harshness, or uninviting conditions, like the biting cold of a blizzard.
In essence, chilly and cold differentiate in the scale of coolness they describe, with chilly sitting lower on the scale, hinting at a milder form of coolness, and cold representing a more substantial, often less comfortable degree of low temperature.

Comparison Chart


Mildly cool
Intensely cool or low in temperature


Uncomfortable but tolerable
Often unpleasant and requiring warmth


Seasonal, atmospheric, or time-specific
Broad, including physical sensations and objective temperatures


Transient or seasonal
Can be enduring or related to specific conditions


Can be somewhat pleasant or invigorating
Often negative, associated with discomfort or harshness

Compare with Definitions


Mildly cool, causing slight discomfort.
The morning was chilly, prompting her to grab a sweater.


Lacking warmth, significantly low in temperature.
The water was too cold for swimming.


Suggesting a brisk, fresh coolness.
There was a chilly breeze by the lake at dusk.


Unpleasantly cool, requiring protective clothing.
The cold weather made her bundle up in layers.


Uncomfortably cool but not excessively cold.
The room felt chilly after the air conditioning was turned up.


Used to describe extreme conditions of low temperature.
Surviving the cold Arctic winters requires special gear.


Seasonally cool, especially in autumn or spring.
The evenings are getting chillier as fall approaches.


Emotionally distant or unfriendly.
Her response was as cold as ice.


Invigoratingly cool, often in a positive sense.
He enjoyed the chilly air during his morning jog.


Characterized by freezing or near-freezing conditions.
The forecast warns of cold temperatures overnight.


Feeling cold, often to the point of shivering.


At a low temperature.
The steel was processed cold.


Cool or cold enough to cause discomfort.


The sensation produced by the escape of heat; chilliness or chillness.
When she saw her lord prepared to part,A deadly cold ran shivering to her heart.


Lacking warmth of feeling;
A chilly greeting
An unfriendly manner


Cold is the presence of low temperature, especially in the atmosphere. In common usage, cold is often a subjective perception.


Having a low temperature
Cold water.


The sensation resulting from lack of warmth; chill.


(of a person or animal) Feeling the sensation of coldness, especially to the point of discomfort.
She was so cold she was shivering.


Deprived of heat, or having a low temperature; not warm or hot; gelid; frigid.


Lacking the sensation of warmth; suffering from the absence of heat; chilly; shivering; as, to be cold.


To become cold.

Common Curiosities

Can "chilly" ever describe temperatures as low as "cold" does?

Typically, "chilly" is used for milder coolness, not the extreme low temperatures "cold" might imply.

Can a drink be described as "chilly"?

Drinks are more commonly described as "cold," but "chilly" might be used for a lightly cooled beverage.

Does "cold" always imply negative feelings?

Often, but not always. "Cold" can have neutral or even positive connotations, depending on context, like "cold water" being refreshing.

Is it correct to use "chilly" to describe a person's demeanor?

While "cold" is more commonly used for demeanor, "chilly" can be applied for a mildly cold or somewhat distant demeanor.

Is "chilly" more subjective than "cold"?

Yes, "chilly" can be more subjective, varying with personal perception, whereas "cold" often denotes objectively low temperatures.

Can "chilly" and "cold" be used interchangeably in poetry or literature?

In creative contexts, they might be used interchangeably for stylistic purposes, though they convey different degrees of coolness.

Can animals be described as "chilly"?

Animals might feel "chilly" but are more often described as "cold" when their body temperature is low.

Can weather be "chilly" in the summer?

Yes, early mornings or late evenings in summer can be described as "chilly" if the temperature drops noticeably.

Can "chilly" describe a relationship or interaction?

Yes, it can describe a relationship or interaction that is cool and slightly distant.

Is "cold" used in scientific contexts more than "chilly"?

Yes, "cold" is more prevalent in scientific and objective descriptions of temperature.

Does "chilly" imply a need for heating?

Not necessarily; "chilly" might require light covering, whereas "cold" often suggests a need for heating.

Does "cold" have more synonyms than "chilly"?

"Cold" has a broader range of synonyms due to its wider usage and meanings.

Is "chilly" weather more comfortable than "cold" weather?

Generally, "chilly" weather is considered more comfortable and tolerable than "cold" weather, which can be harsh.

Can "chilly" refer to a lack of warmth in a room?

Yes, "chilly" can describe a room that feels slightly cool and lacks warmth.

Is the phrase "catch a cold" related to being in "cold" weather?

Yes, it's a common belief, though colds are caused by viruses, not temperature alone.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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