The Meaning of Stay Frosty: What It Is and How To Use It

This guide will give you all of the info you need on the phrase stay frosty, including its meaning, origin, usage in sentences, and more!

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What does the phrase stay frosty mean?

According to Linguaholic, the phrase stay frosty means to stay alert, while keeping one’s emotions under control. This was its traditional military meaning. However, the popular term now means “keep cool,” and can be used as a valediction between friends. 

Stay frosty is a metaphor, playing on the phrases “keep cool” or “keep a cool head.” The phrase expresses the opposite of someone who is “hot-headed.” For people in the military, particularly those in combat, they may need to be reminded by their fellow soldiers to keep a cool head when things get rough.

There are other military metaphors that have made their way into the English language, including “never pet a burning dog.” This means that when someone sees a bad situation that they have no hope of saving, it is futile to try and help, and will only cause further damage to step in.

What is the origin of the idiom stay frosty?

Linguaholic states that this phrase became popular in many different subcultures, which eventually led to its establishment in the popular vernacular. This phrase is one of many that associate emotions with temperatures. Hot temperatures are often associated with fiery, passionate, strong emotions, like the phrases “hot and bothered,” “hot-headed,” or “boiling rage.” In contrast, when describing calm, level-headed people, we use phrases like “cool under pressure,” “keep your cool,” or “cool-headed.” “Stay frosty” is similar to these phrases.

Where is the term stay frosty commonly seen in popular culture?

The most famous usage of the phrase stay frosty comes from the 1986 film Aliens, directed by James Cameron. In the film, Corporal Hicks, played by Michael Biehn, says the following famous quote to his team, per IMDb:

Corporal Hicks : We’re all in strung out shape, but stay frosty, and alert. We can’t afford to let one of those bastards in here.

While this may be the most famous usage, the pop culture origin comes from the 1972 film The New Centurions, which was the first time the phrase was used in a film. According to Subzin, George C. Scott tells his former partner Stacy Keach the following, urging him to stay on his toes. After this, Scott shoots himself.

George C. Scott: Stay frosty, kid. You can’t become an avenging angel.

The idiom is also used to title a 2008 episode of the HBO war miniseries Generation Kill. “Stay Frosty” is episode six of the seven-episode miniseries. In this episode, the captain becomes over-eager in his attempts to subdue a war prisoner, and his men grow disillusioned with his command. The show stars Alexander Skarsgård, amongst others, according to IMDb.

“Stay Frosty” is also the title of a Van Halen song. According to Song Facts, this track premiered on their 2012 album A Different Kind of Truth, and was first heard during a 2012 episode of the show CSI during a scene in a strip club. Both this song and the song “Ice Cream Blues” start with an acoustic intro from Dave Lee Roth.

Finally, the idiom can also be seen in video games, particularly Call of Duty. Fandom states that there is a trophy, or achievement, one can acquire in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.  The game awards the player the trophy once they beat the Special Ops Mission Mode challenge Arctic Recon on any level of difficulty.

All of these appearances in popular culture show how much the idiom stay frosty has made its way into the common vernacular. While many of these examples come from war, law enforcement or battle-themed media, the presence of the idiom only continues to popularize it.

How can stay frosty be used in a sentence?

Stay frosty has two common uses. It can either be used as a valediction, like “stay excellent” or “peace out,” or it can be used to tell someone to keep their cool. In the first example, Tyler is heading out from the bowling alley after a fun night with his friends.

Tyler: Bye guys, see you tomorrow!

Joe: See ya, Tyler! Stay frosty!

Tyler: You too!

Here, Joe uses the phrase stay frosty as a casual goodbye. Synonyms in this context could be “stay excellent,” “keep it tight,” or “peace out.” In this next example, Annie is panicking about her driving exam and feels anxious about getting behind the wheel. Her father, an ex-Marine, tries to calm her down.

Annie: There’s just too much to study! There’s too many different signs, and I’m scared that if I take my eyes off the road to look at them I’ll crash! I can’t do it! I’ll never be able to drive!

Dad: Whoa, whoa. Annie. You’re going to be fine. Stay frosty.

Annie: What?

Dad: Stay frosty; keep a cool head, but stay alert. That’s the key to driving. If you’re all panicky and tense you’re more likely to make a mistake.

Here, Annie’s dad uses the phrase stay frosty to advise Annie to keep calm and alert while driving. These are two examples of different ways in which the idiom stay frosty can be used.

The popular term stay frosty originated as a military term and advises the recipient to stay calm and alert. The phrase has become a common idiom and greeting, and can be used amongst non-military people to mean stay cool, or keep a cool head. Stay frosty is prevalent in many films, television shows, and video games.