adj. cool·er, cool·est
1. Neither warm nor very cold; moderately cold: fresh, cool water; a cool autumn evening.
2. Giving or suggesting relief from heat: a cool breeze; a cool blouse.
3. Marked by calm self-control: a cool negotiator.
4. Marked by indifference, disdain, or dislike; unfriendly or unresponsive: a cool greeting; was cool to the idea of higher taxes.
5. Of, relating to, or characteristic of colors, such as blue and green, that produce the impression of coolness.
a. Knowledgeable or aware of the latest trends or developments: spent all his time trying to be cool.
b. Excellent; first-rate: has a cool sports car; had a cool time at the party.
c. Acceptable; satisfactory: It's cool if you don't want to talk about it.
7. Slang Entire; full: worth a cool million.
Informal In a casual manner; nonchalantly: play it cool.
v. cooled, cool·ing, cools
1. To make less warm.
2. To make less ardent, intense, or zealous: problems that soon cooled my enthusiasm for the project.
3. Physics To reduce the molecular or kinetic energy of (an object).
1. To become less warm: took a dip to cool off.
2. To become calmer: needed time for tempers to cool.
1. A cool place, part, or time: the cool of early morning.
2. The state or quality of being cool.
3. Composure; poise: "Our release marked a victory. The nation had kept its cool" (Moorhead Kennedy).
cool it Slang
1. To calm down; relax.
2. To stop doing something.
cool (one's) heels Informal
To wait or be kept waiting.
[Middle English cole, from Old English cōl; see gel- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: cool, calm, composed, collected, imperturbable, nonchalant
These adjectives indicate absence of excitement or discomposure in a person, especially in times of stress. Cool usually implies an alert self-possession, but it may also indicate aloofness: "Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience" (B.H. Liddell Hart). "An honest hater is often a better fellow than a cool friend" (John Stuart Blackie).
Calm suggests a serenity achieved through mastery over agitation or inner turmoil: "It was like coming across a bear in the woods: you were supposed to stand still and remain calm, against every impulse" (Cheryl Strayed).
Composed and collected stress self-control brought about by mental concentration: The dancer was composed as she prepared for her recital. The witness remained collected throughout the questioning. Imperturbable and unruffled suggest equanimity in the face of potentially disturbing circumstances: The crises of 1837 shook his previously imperturbable composure (James A. Henretta).
Nonchalant describes a casual manner that may suggest either confidence or lack of concern: "the nonchalant way of loggers with regard to injuries" (Molly Gloss). See Also Synonyms at cold.
Our Living Language The usage of cool as a general positive epithet or interjection has been part and parcel of English slang since World War II, and has even been borrowed into other languages, such as French and German. Originally this sense is a development from its use in African American Vernacular English to mean "excellent, superlative," first recorded in written English in the early 1930s. Jazz musicians who used the term are responsible for its popularization during the 1940s. As a slang word expressing generally positive sentiment, it has stayed current (and cool) far longer than most such words. One of the main characteristics of slang is the continual renewal of its vocabulary and storehouse of expressions: in order for slang to stay slangy, it has to have a feeling of novelty. Slang expressions meaning the same thing as cool, like bully, capital, hot, groovy, hep, crazy, nervous, far-out, rad, tubular, def, and phat have for the most part not had the staying power or continued universal appeal of cool.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.