Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Cryo - Cold Words

Photo by Robert Fornal


Combining form. Also (occasionally) kryo-.
[from Greek kruos frost, icy cold.]

Used in science with the sense 'of, involving, or producing very low temperatures'.

There's a multitude of cryo- words in English. Some are unique and interesting, like a snowflake, and some are mind-freezingly dull, like Dancing on Ice (that's a wickedly prejudicial presumption, as I've never seen Dancing on Ice, and I never will). As it would take too long to list all of the cryo- words in the OED, here are some of the most interesting ones:

Noun M20
The biology of organisms, tissues, etc., cooled to temperatures below those at which they normally function.

Noun L19
A substance used to induce very low temperatures; a freezing mixture.

Noun. M20
The practice or technique of deep-freezing the bodies of those who have died of an incurable disease, in the hope that some cure for it will be discovered in the future. 

Noun L20
The cooling of living matter to below the freezing point of water in order to preserve its life.

Noun M20
An ultra-cooled probe employed in cryosurgery. 

Noun M20
Protection against damage caused by freezing temperatures.

Noun M20
The permanently frozen part of the earth's surface.

Noun M20
Surgery using local application of intense cold usually in order to freeze and destroy unwanted tissue.

Noun M20
The use of extreme cold in the treatment of disease. 

An ice cube
An ice cube. And a superfluous caption. Yup.
(photo by Pierre Rennes)
Hmm. Actually, now that I look back over the list, these words are incorrigibly dull (with maybe the exception of cryonics, which will get its own post, and cryoprobe, which raises a childish smirk). Still, to committed lexophiles, cryo- remains a most useful prefix, and therefore may I suggest a couple of additions to the cryo- words:

Noun. E21
A genre of practical humour that involves the application of cold substances to a warm body.
Examples include dropping ice cubes down someone's shirt, pushing them into the Irish sea,
and throwing a cup of cold water over someone while they're having a hot shower.
Extreme forms of cryohumour may include a cryoprobe.
Care should be taken not to confuse cryohumerus with cryohumour.

Noun. E21
A 'cold shoulder', a snub, a rebuff, especially when one's only recourse is retaliatory pretension: "How dare you give me the cryohumerous, young man!"
Care should be taken not to confuse cryohumour with cryohumerus.

Noun. E21
Cowardice; an instance of or tendency to have 'cold feet'.
This word is especially useful when trying to justify your craven cowardice as some kind of medical condition:
"I'm sorry I ran off during your mugging, darling, but you know how cryopedalic I am."

Do you have any favourite cryo- words?

Do you have any suggestions for cryo- words that aren't but should be?

Do please chill and leave your iciest comments in the cool box below.


  1. In Greek cryo humor actually exists (2 words=κρύο χιούμορ) and it means that someone is not funny at all and their jokes are really bad and/or immature. The person who tries to be funny but fails, as well as the person who never shows much emotion/passion about anything is called "cryocolos" (literal translation: cold-a**). Now, I'm sorry to have to inform you about that but this word is also used as a derogatory noun to refer to people coming from the UK, Sweden and other Northern European countries. (Please, don't tell anyone I was the one to let you know. :) )

    In slang we also use -cryo as a suffix to emphasize how cold it is: "psofocryo=deadcold" and ... um ... Ok, I'll keep the second one to myself. :)

    1. Hey! Right now, googling 'cryhumour' brings up four hits, with Lexicolatry the top two, and 'cryohumerus' gets two hits, both of them Lexi's! These are *my* words, and I have absolutely no doubt they are going to enrich and embiggen the English language no end. You read them here first.

      Seriously, though, that's very interesting. In English, we talk about jokes falling flat when they're not funny, and immature humour is sometimes called 'low humour' or 'lowbrow'.

      And Evi ... there is a racial epithet for northern Europeans in Greece? Well I never! I am duly appalled. Tell me - would an Irish person also be termed a 'cryocolos'?

    2. I don't think so. For some reason, Greek people have always felt kind of closer to the Irish. Maybe because both countries have had some similar situations to deal with.

    3. Well indeed! Does the discrimination never end?? Hmph.

  2. I see that there is a Cryotherapy Clinic in Ennis. Also, how about this? - Whole body cryotherapy in cryo-chamber for treating multiple sclerosis. It appears that if your body temperature is taken down to -110C the symptoms disappear and you feel much better.

    Cryowords I have come across in my work are Cryostat and Cryogenic and Cryolite.

    Frozen Carbon Dioxide squeaks if you squeeze it in a vice, so we have a material that is cryosonic.

    1. That *is* very interesting. On a serious note, heat is a big factor with MS - many people experience considerable worsening of symptoms if they get too hot (myself included).

      However, bringing your temperature down to -110C? Hmm. I'm sure it does make your symptoms disappear - and pretty much everything else. Do they run a special offer? "Free cryonic storage if you should die during one of our treatments."