Word of the Week: 冷たい (tsumetai)

Posted: 21st April 2022

Hello and welcome to the Ippo Ippo Japanese Word of the Week!

This week's word is...



What does it mean?

冷たい (tsumetai) means 'cold'.

Pretty straightforward, right? However...

If you've ever looked up the Japanese word for 'cold' before, you've probably came across another word: 寒い (samui).

What's the difference between 冷たい (tsumetai) and 寒い (samui)?

First up, 寒い (samui) is the perfect word to describe cold weather or the feeling of being cold, e.g.

  • 今日は寒いですね (kyō wa samui desu ne) - it's cold today, isn't it?
  • 昨日は寒くなかったです (kinō wa samukunakatta desu) - it wasn't cold yesterday
  • 寒い!(samui!) - I'm cold/it's so cold!

冷たい (tsumetai), on the other hand, is used to describe things that are cold to the touch. For example:

  • この水は冷たい (kono mizu wa tsumetai) - this water is cold
  • サムさんの手が冷たい (Samu-san no te ga tsumetai.) - Sam's hand is/hands are cold
  • 今日は暑すぎる!何か冷たいものが飲みたいなぁ。(Kyō wa atsusugiru! Nani ka tsumetai mono ga nomitai naa.) - It's too hot today. I want something cold to drink.

You can also extend 冷たい (tsumetai) to describing people!

  • あの人は冷たい (ano hito wa tsumetai) - that person is [emotionally] cold
  • 冷たくしないで (tsumetaku shinaide) - don't be cold to me/don't give me the cold shoulder
  • 会議中にギャグを言ったら、周りの人から冷たい目で見られた (Kaigichuu ni gyagu wo ittara, mawari no hito kara tsumetai me de mirareta) - I made a joke in a meeting and got cold looks from the people around me

When might I use 冷たい (tsumetai)?

Although 冷たい (tsumetai) is all about things being cold, it's not all about the cold months of the year! In fact, it's a really handy word for in the summer when you want a nice cool drink or something cold to eat (black sesame ice cream, anyone?).

Although it can be easy to mix up 冷たい (tsumetai) and 寒い (samui) - I still do it 10yrs into learning Japanese! - adding 冷たい (tsumetai) to your vocab can really add to the range of situations you can talk about in Japanese.

You've reached the end of this post! I hope you enjoyed it.

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