I'm interested in how the adjective "solid" affects the verb "freeze"?
For this purpose, I found some examples.

(1a) The clothes froze solid on the washing line.
my variant:
(1b) The clothes froze on the washing line.
What's the difference between (1a) and (1b)?

(2a) The river used to freeze solid every winter.
my variant:
(2b) The river used to freeze every winter.
What's the difference between (2a) and (2b)?

  • 2
    No idea why I think this way, but to me it always looked like "froze solid" is a fancy way of saying "became solid", emphasising solidness rather than coldness. Commented May 6 at 6:35
  • in 99.999999999% of cases the ".. solid" has ever been used, the person was just adding emphasis. English is literally the sloppiest and least literal of languages. (Note that - for example - the word "literally", in English, now means "slightly" in almost all usage!)
    – Fattie
    Commented May 6 at 16:36
  • Slush ice exist. Non-solid but frozen. Commented May 6 at 20:30
  • Take for comparison "the river froze over" or "the clothes froze (on)to the washing line".
    – Bergi
    Commented May 7 at 19:27
  • "Solid" just describes the extent to which the clothes froze, to emphasize the point that they were completely frozen. It gives the reader a more vivid perception.
    – Mentalist
    Commented May 8 at 5:26

6 Answers 6


There are different degrees of freezing. A light frost is different from a frost that penetrates through something. So saying "froze solid" you mean that the freezing was complete and penetrated through to the centre of something.

It can also be used for emphasis, they really, actually froze.

  • 7
    I think the verb "freeze" has always had the basic meaning of "turn to ice", not just get colder. But I agree that in the examples it could be merely emphasis, But the river example could mean that the river completely turned to ice (no flowing water under the ice) There's some wiggle room for interpretation here. But I stand by my answer, there are different degrees of "freezing" and "freeze solid" is the greatest degree.
    – James K
    Commented May 6 at 17:34
  • 7
    @Fattie: I have never heard anyone describing chilled-but-liquid milk as "frozen." There is a sense of the word which could mean "chilled," but this is usually applied to people or places, not objects.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 6 at 18:19
  • 8
    You could describe food as frozen when it's still possible to bend, twist, etc, it. For example, some ice cream is soft enough to scoop and serve even when below 0 C; but if your ice cream is frozen solid, you can't scoop it.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 6 at 19:54
  • 20
    @Fattie: "Freezing" is not "frozen."
    – Kevin
    Commented May 6 at 20:46
  • 3
    Suppose I put wet clothes on the line and a blizzard rolls in. I run out and bring the clothes in. They're covered with a thin layer of surface ice -- the surface ice is a solid, but my clothes are still flexible. When I bend them, the ice cracks off in little chips. My clothes froze, but they did not freeze solid. If I leave them out longer, when I bring them in, my clothes are fully permeated with ice; I can bang my overalls on the table and it just goes clunk. These clothes froze solid. In both cases, the ice is solid and the clothes froze, but the freezing is incomplete in one case. Commented May 7 at 19:41

Sometimes a body of water is described as frozen when only the surface is ice, but there is liquid water beneath. The term frozen solid specifies that the entire body of water has become ice; there is no liquid water remaining.

With items like clothes, food, etc, the expressions have parallel meanings, normally referring to the state of their water content.

Of course both expressions can be used as hyperbole. Most people who describe themselves as frozen, are not really frozen, even in part.

  • 20
    A body of water described as frozen solid could also refer to one that has a thick enough layer of ice to be walked or skated on or even driven on, even if water remains underneath.
    – oldtechaa
    Commented May 6 at 4:14

Firstly, to freeze doesn't only mean to change from a liquid to solid state due to a temperature change. To freeze also means for something to get stuck, or for something or someone to stop moving. There are situations in which adding "solid" clarifies that it's solidification and not stoppage.

The phrase "frozen solid" emphasizes that an entire object has become rigid. Something can be frozen without becoming a rigid object.

For instance, a bag of frozen peas can be such that the peas are loose, so that it behaves like a soft, bean-bag pillow.

If the bag of frozen peas had a lot of water in it, such that the entire bag froze into a hard, solid object, then that is described as "frozen solid". The individual peas themselves are frozen solid either way, but the bag of them isn't necessarily.

Clothing that is frozen solid is rigid. You can take the frozen pair of jeans off the clothes line and lean them against the wall. Without raising the temperature of the jeans, you could forcibly crumple the frozen cloth. The ice embedded in the textile will break up, leaving the jeans flexible. They are then no longer frozen solid, though still frozen.

There is a function of simple emphasis also: "frozen solid" means something like "very frozen".

So those are the three meanings of "solid" in relation to freezing:

  • clarify that freezing refers to solidification rather than stoppage

  • synonym of rigid, clarifying the state of a composite-material object (e.g. water plus textile, or bag of vegetables) that can be frozen in less rigid configurations.

  • emphasis.

  • Idiomatically, "froze on the clothes line" could/would mean that the jeans were stuck on the clothes line, probably by freezing, not that that the jeans were frozen.
    – david
    Commented May 7 at 1:08
  • 1
    @david Yes, this is what I was getting that. However, if they froze solid on the clothes line, that tends to suppress that interpretation, if not eliminate it entirely.
    – Kaz
    Commented May 7 at 1:36

The way I'm used to using and hearing the phrase (in America) is that "frozen solid" refers to and re-emphasizes the rigidity of the substance, not its temperature.

For example, if a river is frozen, it may only be a surface freeze of an inch or two. But if it is frozen solid, this - in casual American English - is taken to mean it is rigid enough to walk on.

If you are freezing a thick enough chunk of meat, "frozen" may sometimes mean the surface is solid, but the interior may not yet be solid, and you can still bend or cut the object with relative ease. Whereas "frozen solid" would mean that the object is frozen all the way through, or at least enough that you can't easily bend cut it.

Likewise, wet clothes hanging outside could be frozen: partially firmed in shape from freezing, but still pliable. But if it's frozen solid, it is frozen entirely through, or at least enough that the clothes no longer bend with ease (and may even shatter).

Even things that are entirely frozen, if small enough, can be referred to as "frozen" but not "frozen solid". For example, if you freeze a container of uncooked dry rice, the grains may be individually frozen all the way through, but they are not stuck together, so the rice - collectively - is not frozen solid. Whereas if the rice was cooked rice (and therefore wet), it can freeze into a block that is stuck together - thus, frozen solid.

Frozen solid is re-emphasizing the solidity/rigidity of the object. It's frozen to the point of being rigid enough from the perspective of someone interacting with it.


The other answers have thoroughly covered the difference between partially freezing and freezing solid, but with the clothes example my mind immediately jumped to freezing onto something.

If you said "The clothes froze on the washing line," it would be slightly ambiguous whether you meant that the clothes had frozen into solid lumps or that they had become attached to the washing line by ice.

In actual speech I would assume the former case, and rephrase to 'froze onto' or just say 'the clothes froze and stuck to the line' if I meant that specifically, but if you use 'frozen solid' there is no ambiguity in either direction.


Froze is a verb (past tense).

Solid is an adverb.

It's like saying "She ran quickly" or "He waved excitedly" or "He died happily".

  • Isn't "solid" an adjective and "solidly" an adverb?
    – enzo
    Commented May 6 at 16:36
  • Um ... I don't know but in the usage given solid desribes "how it froze". Examples: "it froze hard" "it froze soft" "it froze slowly" "it froze dangerously" "it froze solid" "it froze endlessly" "it froze up" "it froze down" "it froze quickly". .. @enzo
    – Fattie
    Commented May 6 at 16:38
  • 3
    @Fattie It's not actually modifying the verb here—it's modifying the subject. "To freeze" here is a copula: a verb which links its subject to a subject complement. "To be" is the most basic copula, but there are many others, some only copulae in specific situations. "To freeze solid" is to become solid by way of freezing. It doesn't describe how the subject gets there, it describes what the subject is at the end. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_copulae
    – Peeja
    Commented May 6 at 20:46
  • 2
    Solid is not an adverb, and it’s not being used adverbially in ‘freeze solid’. It’s an adjective describing the subject. It does not mean that the thing froze in a solid manner, but that the thing became solid by freezing. Similarly, “He died happy” means that he was in a happy state of mind when he died; “He died happily” means that he died in a happy way – or that it was fortunate that he died. And giving a word class does not say anything about why the word is used. Commented May 7 at 2:02
  • 1
    @Loviii Yes, that it correct. The latter would normally be written, “He died, happily” with a comma. Commented May 7 at 9:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .