Caught A Cold: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 20, 2023

"Caught a cold" typically means that someone has become ill with a cold. This idiom describes contracting a viral infection that affects the nose and throat, leading to symptoms like sneezing, coughing, a sore throat, and a runny nose. Even though the word "caught" implies grabbing or obtaining, in this context, it indicates that someone has become infected with the cold virus. You may also use it metaphorically to signify encountering troubles or difficulties, particularly of a financial nature.

In short:

  • The idiom refers to someone getting sick with a cold.
  • This phrase describes contracting a viral infection, often resulting in common cold symptoms.
  • It can mean running into troubles or difficulties, especially financial ones.

What Does "Caught a Cold" Mean?

The term “caught a cold” means becoming sick with a cold. If someone says, "I've caught a cold," they mean they have the symptoms of the cold virus, such as coughing, sneezing, or a runny nose. The phrase indicates a sudden onset of illness and reminds us of the contagious nature of colds.

However, there's another, less obvious meaning to this phrase. Figuratively speaking, if someone has "caught a cold," they've run into trouble or difficulties, usually of a financial nature. This could refer to someone facing unexpected expenses, financial loss, or experiencing some other form of monetary trouble.

Let's explore its core meanings and usage:

  • "Caught a cold" means someone has become infected with the cold virus.
  • People use this term when they start experiencing symptoms of the cold.
  • The word "caught" highlights a cold's infectious and easy-to-get nature.
  • It may also mean encountering an unexpected problem or difficult situation, especially related to money or business.
  • Some synonyms for the literal meaning of “caught a cold” are: come down with a cold, get a cold, have a cold.
  • Some synonyms for the figurative meaning of “caught a cold” are: suffer a setback, face a problem, get into trouble.

Where Does "Caught a Cold" Come From?

The phrase "caught a cold" has its origins in the notion of "catching" or becoming infected with diseases. Historically, when diseases spread, people would say they "caught" the illness from someone else, emphasizing the transmissible nature of the condition. This became a common way to describe acquiring ailments like the cold and other troublesome scenarios.

Historical Example

"But farther, patients often conclude that they have caught a cold, from some unknown cause, judging merely from the effect."

- A Clinical History of the Acute Rheumatism, Or Rheumatick ..., 1813

10 Examples of "Caught a Cold" in Sentences

To help you grasp when to use this phrase, let's look at some examples from different contexts:

  • After a long day in the rain, he caught a cold and had to stay in bed for a week.
  • My friend Darla, the snow bunnycaught a cold during her winter trip and missed out on skiing.
  • My partner in crime and I both caught a cold last winter.
  • Catching a cold just before my presentation was the last thing I needed.
  • They caught a cold during their vacation, so they spent a lot of time resting in the hotel.
  • I've been feeling under the weather ever since I caught a cold.
  • It's my prerogative to protect my finances, especially after I caught a cold with that risky investment.
  • He rarely catches a cold because he always dresses appropriately for the weather.
  • Lo and behold, our business caught a cold just when we thought we'd make a profit.
  • She was in the pink of health last week but unfortunately caught a cold.

Examples of "Caught a Cold" in Pop Culture

The term sometimes appears in pop culture, mostly in contexts where characters are facing health issues.

Let's delve into a few instances:

  • "The Spy Who Caught a Cold" is a 1995 short film narrating a single mom who takes her daughter on a holiday to a nudist camp.
  • Jake Owen sings a track titled "Catch a Cold One," with the catchy lyrics, "Work ain't always done when the day's done. You can't always catch a break or a big one, but you can always catch a cold one."
  • "Katie Caught a Cold" is a 2005 children's book by Charlotte Cowan. It spins a yarn about a little bear with a cold, aiming to comfort families encountering the common cold.
  • In the book "Childhood: An Anthology for Grown-ups" by Dewi Roberts, there's a touching line: "When she saw me standing in the doorway she rose and said it was nothing, she had only caught a cold, and as she went out she ran her fingers through my hair, the one time, as far as I remember, she ever did such a thing."

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Caught a Cold"

There are several other expressions that convey a similar meaning to "caught a cold."

Here are some alternatives:

  • Came down with a cold
  • Got a cold
  • Fell sick with a cold
  • Became ill with a cold
  • Picked up a cold
  • Developed a cold
  • Got infected with the cold virus
  • Fell ill from a cold
  • Started showing cold symptoms
  • Hit a snag
  • Encountered difficulties
  • Get into trouble
  • Suffer a setback

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Caught a Cold":

  • What does "caught a cold" mean?

"Caught a cold" means someone has contracted a viral infection that affects the nose and throat, leading to symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. When used metaphorically, it can mean encountering problems or difficulties, especially relating to financial matters.

  • How can I use "caught a cold" in a sentence?

You can use it to describe someone getting sick or having financial troubles. For example, "My first overseas experience was memorable, but I caught a cold halfway through." or "They told us to expect the unexpected, and we sure did when our investments caught a cold."

  • Is "catching a cold" related to being in the cold weather?

Not directly. While cold weather can make you more susceptible to illnesses by weakening your immune system or making you spend more time indoors with others who might be sick, the cold itself doesn’t cause the illness. It's caused by a virus.

  • Can you prevent catching a cold?

Yes, frequent hand-washing, avoiding close contact with sick people, and keeping your immune system strong with a good diet, exercise, and enough sleep can help reduce your risk of catching a cold.

  • How long does a cold usually last?

A common cold typically lasts about a week. However, if symptoms persist for more than 10 days, it might be a sign of a more serious illness and a doctor should be consulted.

  • Is there a cure for the common cold?

There isn't a cure for the common cold, but rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications can help alleviate symptoms.

  • Can you catch a cold from getting wet in the rain?

No, getting wet or being in the rain doesn't cause a cold. However, drastic temperature changes can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to catching viruses.

  • How contagious is a cold?

A cold is highly contagious, especially during the first 2-3 days of symptoms. It spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can also spread by touching surfaces that have the virus on them.

  • Can you catch a cold more than once?

Yes, there are many different cold viruses, so it's possible to catch a cold multiple times. Moreover, immunity to a specific cold virus might decrease over time, so you can catch the same cold virus again in the future.

  • Are colds more common in any specific season?

Yes, colds are more common in the fall and winter, but you can catch a cold any time of the year.

Final Thoughts About "Caught a Cold"

The idiom "caught a cold" refers to contracting the common cold, a viral illness marked by symptoms like a runny nose, coughing, and general discomfort. However, in a more figurative sense, it’s used to describe stumbling upon trouble, especially of a financial nature.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Caught a cold" is about contracting a viral infection with symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose.
  • This usage originates from the idea that illnesses can be 'caught' or picked up from others.
  • In the figurative sense, it refers to something undesirable that happens out of the blue and causes hardship or inconvenience.
  • The literal and figurative meanings are related in that catching a virus and running into trouble are both situations that happen unexpectedly and cause distress.

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