Does "cold" mean illness across a large number of languages

I had no luck in Google with this because I couldn’t come up with a phrasing that addressed what I was trying to ask.

In English, we use the word “cold” to mean a minor, routine seasonal illness- “I have a cold.”

Do other languages use their translation of “cold” in the same way? Would a German say “Ich habe ein kalt?” Or is this a strictly English construct?

If this is common I’d be interested in as many specific examples as people have


German certainly tends to blame it on the cold, with the word “Erkältung”

The French say “un rhume” or “enrhumé”, which derive from Latin and Greek words indicating streaming liquid, so describing symptoms rather than causes.

The Spanish word for cold resfriado comes from the Latin ex frigidare, which means to get cold. So the word is not exactly the same as cold (frio) but is related to it.

I see that Brazilian Portuguese also uses resfriado, although in Portugal they apparently use constipação. (That could make for an interesting “false friend” for an English speaker:D)

In Hebrew, (like in English) there are two commonly used words for this condition.
One means “I’ve become cold” the other means “I’m chilled”-- and they both imply that you have a runny nose and maybe a fever.

Here in the peninsula, I have never heard resfriado spoken. They prefer gripa.

The word “grippe” is an archaic word in English for the flu.

Not in Japanese. The Japanese word for the common cold (kaze) is derived from the word for “wind”, and is also a homonym of it.

Also, “hot” (as in temperature) and “hot” as in spicy are different words in Japanese.

Spanish has additional words as well, including catarro, constipado (Spain), and in southern South America resfrio. I believe gripe refers more to the flu. Resfriado is the word I hear most frequently here in Panama.

A lot of Germanic languages have words for the common cold that are related to the English words cool, chill, and cold (which if you go back far enough are all related). They are not necessarily the most common words for the condition in those languages.

Afrikaans verkoue
Dutch verkoudheid
Danish forkølelse
German Verkühlung
Norwegian forkjølelse
Swedish förkylning

Icelandic kvef (related to English “cough”) seems to be an outlier.

Not at all in Korean. Two entirely different words are used.

Interesting as I have wondered why it is called a cold. I never recall being cold when I have one. I thought it was because of the initial conditions that many think cause one to catch a cold, which would be being out in the cold weather.

The fact that “constipado” means “having a cold” in Spanish should be reeeeeally useful for English speakers if they ever have an upset stomach in a Spanish-Speaking place and want to avoid hilarious misunderstandings.

Both words are a way of saying “obturated”, but in Spanish the blocked body part is the nose.

Which is similar to gripe, the flu in many Spanish dialects. We also have gripe estomacal (stomach bug; gastritis or gastrenteritis).

And yes, the first time I encountered a reference to someone being constipated I got quite confused, as the context made it clear it meant some sort of tummy trouble. Dictionaries are such a great invention!

A yes for some Slavic languages at least

Prehlada - Croatian / Slovenian / Serbian = ‘a cold’, Hladno = ‘cold temperature’

No connection in the Waali language of northern Ghana:

Cold (temperature) ora Cold (illness) Biereng

Colds are often blamed on the weather, but the words are not related.

The aforementioned Afrikaans verkoue is the only word for the common cold (flu is griep). The Afrikaans word for cold is koud/koue. So related but not the same - more like “coldening” or “colded”, really.

In Irish slaghdán (cold, the illness) is unrelated to fuacht (cold referring to temperature). It’s from slaod, which means a swath or thick layer but can also refer to a debilitating (heavy) illness. Add the diminutive suffix -án to make slaodán which became slaghdán.

Sounds like something Granny Clampett would say.

Today a cold mean an upper respiratory infection but it used to also refer to other parts of the body, such as a cold in your neck. I think, as you said, that it originally referred to the idea that being in the cold caused these problems.

In Persian mostly the Arabic loanword زكام zukam is what they call a cold, but there’s also the expression سرما خوردن sarma khordan (literally to swallow cold temperature), which means to catch a cold.