Chilblain fingers chippy nails
Chilblain fingers chippy nails (Photo credit: knidonovan)


: chilblain \CHIL-blayn\ noun

: an inflammatory swelling or sore caused by exposure (as of the feet or hands) to cold


“The damp cold there goes bone deep, and chilblains are a threat….” — From an article by Guy Trebay in The New York Times, January 16, 2011

“Nature gives us scurvy, rickets, buckteeth and chilblains. That’s on a good day.” — From an article by Gina Barreca in the Hartford Courant (Connecticut), May 3, 2013

Did you know?

Given that chilblains are caused by exposure to cold conditions, it may not surprise you to know that the first element of this word comes from the noun “chill.” The second element, “blain,” may be less familiar, though the word “blain” (“an inflammatory swelling or sore”) is still used by English speakers. Both elements of “chilblain” have Anglo-Saxon roots. “Chill” comes from Old English “ciele” (“frost” or “chill”), which is akin to “ceald,” an Old English ancestor of the modern “cold.” “Blain” comes from Old English “blegen” (same meaning as “blain”). These two words were first brought together (as the compound “chyll blayne”) in the 1500s.


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