In russian, the word "обливаться" can be colloquially used to describe a specific recurring activity where you pour a container of cold water on a person with the goal of building up that person's immunity.

I there an equivalent English idiom/short expression for such an activity?

  • Immunity to what? Jun 25, 2013 at 18:21
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    I would be very surprised if there were an English term for an activity which is not (to the best of my knowledge) practised among English speakers -- and which, it appears from your link, only began to be practised in Russia eighteen years ago. Jun 25, 2013 at 18:29
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    I thought FumbleFingers' answer was good, and I was also surprised the OP wanted a word specifically for toughening up via pouring cold water over a person, not in general. I voted to close, since I don't think there is a useful answer to the question.
    – user230
    Jun 25, 2013 at 19:34
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    Just had a discussion with a group of moderators, and the consensus is that if the answer to a question is "There is no answer to this" (or in this case, "There is no word for this in English"), the question doesn't deserve to be closed, but should be answered as such. So @FumbleFingers, if you don't mind, I invite you to undelete your answer and add that to the beginning, because the rest of the information in your answer is quite useful (and unless a word for this is invented on the spot, I think the OP is unlikely to receive an answer beyond "There is none"). What say you? :)
    – WendiKidd
    Jun 25, 2013 at 21:25
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    Ah, and we seem to be starting a discussion now, so I'll also say that this is a very important subject to discuss but is better done on meta (or even meta.SO if you'd prefer to chime in there). On our meta we can talk about the 3 custom close reasons and how to use them, and how the close changes pertain to us. To petition the comm team and devs for other changes, meta.SO is probably the best place.
    – WendiKidd
    Jun 25, 2013 at 22:38

4 Answers 4


Okay - here's another one that might turn up in "niche vocabularies", even if it's not used all that often...

cryotherapy - the therapeutic use of cold

...which could reasonably be combined with...

hydrotherapy - the therapeutic use of water

The above link has quite a lengthy definition, including "alternating hot and cold water can stimulate the circulatory system and improve the immune system", so obviously hydrotherapy does actually cover OP's intended sense. But combining the two prefixes gives the more specific, and [semi-]credible...

cryohydrotherapy (no dictionary definition, obviously, but there are a few instances of it being used)

  • My only concern is that "therapy" implies treatment from a medical condition as opposed to toughening one's immune system... otherwise I like this
    – DVK
    Jun 25, 2013 at 23:52
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    @DVK: Actually, I hate to pour cold water on my own answer, but I've just gone to check that "About 171 results" link above. In fact, there are only 11 in total, of which 10 are all just duplicates of the same original. I think you'd be better off just using the well-established Hydrotherapy, which as that "medical dictionary" entry says, covers use of water (hot, cold, steam, or ice) It also says Alternating hot and cold water can stimulate the circulatory system and improve the immune system. Jun 26, 2013 at 0:00
  • You better incorporate that into the answer. I'm upvoting and accepting in advance
    – DVK
    Jun 26, 2013 at 2:24

I can't think of an idiomatic expression specifically evocative of a repeated activity leading to "immunity", but for the more general case (which may be a one-off, repeated, and/or prolonged activity), it's...

toughen someone (up) - to make someone stronger and more able to deal with difficult situations

Here, for example, are as few thousand instances in Google Books of "toughened him up". If you look at a few, you'll see that although it's often used in contexts where the "toughening" refers to becoming more physically "robust" (stronger, better-toned muscles, etc.), it's also often used of "emotional" strength.

EDIT I deleted the above answer when OP clarified that he was looking for an English expression for exactly the meaning being "toughened up" by repeated exposure to cold water. Obviously my answer doesn't get very close to that - as I said, it doesn't even imply repeated, let alone cold water.

I've now undeleted it because although there may not be an exact answer, this one is at least "relevant".

But I will just say that I think it's unlikely there will be a short English term evocative of cold water and "positive" effects such as acquiring immunity/becoming stronger. The reason I think it's unlikely is because any such usage would clash with a well-established idiom...

pour cold water on - to discourage doing something; to reduce enthusiasm for something. (Alludes to cooling passion with cold water.)

  • Sorry, I was specifically asking about toughening up via pouring cold water over a person, not in general. I don't have enough rep to downvote, but this does not answer the question at all.
    – DVK
    Jun 25, 2013 at 19:08
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    @DVK: In that case I'll delete the answer, but I'm afraid I must say I think that if what you want is a translation for toughening up by constant exposure to cold water, you probably won't get one with any currency. It's not really a concept Anglophones relate to. Most references to the "toughening" effect of cold showers will probably be sarcastically/dismissively alluding to such practices in boarding schools, etc., where the audience/reader takes for granted that such practices produce "damaged/abused weaklings/victims", rather than strong healthy adults. Jun 25, 2013 at 19:20
  • Provisionally accepting unless someone comes up with what I really want (a term common in niche vocabulary)
    – DVK
    Jun 25, 2013 at 22:36

Actually, I think the English term for this activity will be "dousing" or "cold water dousing". Since this is not a common practice among Anglophones, you will probably have to give some more details when you write or talk about "dousing".

There is an article in Wikipedia about dousing:

Dousing is the practice of making something or someone wet by throwing liquid over them, e.g., by pouring water, generally cold, over oneself. A related practice is ice swimming. Some consider cold water dousing to be a form of asceticism.

There's also a list of countries in this article where this activity is practiced.

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    It's worth noting that the Wikipedia page is flagged as does not cite any references or sources. Using just the word dousing for any kind of hydrotherapy (cold or not) might be okay in specific contexts, but there's no relevant definition in either OED or the first few online dictionaries I've just looked at. Jun 26, 2013 at 17:26

This action could be described as conditioning.

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