Can the expression:

寒気{さむけ}が する

really mean feel cold and also have a chill (as per many dictionaries)?

To me, to have a chill/bug means to be sick from a virus/cold for a short period: have I missed something?

For reference I give the followings nouns fitting the construction "がする”・to sense:

におい、音、気、味 [smell, sound, feel, taste]

  • 2
    We also often say 寒気がする when we hear ghost stories and feel scared. cf. ぞっとする, ぞぞぞ, ぞーっ
    – user1016
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:57
  • @Chocolate: I didn't know that - thanks!
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 16:01
  • 2
    So "have a chill" = "spine-tingling" in that sense. I wonder how many dictionaries have that as part of the definition.
    – istrasci
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


When you are sick (especially when you have a fever), you sometimes feel the cold as if it were colder than it actually is. [寒気]{さむけ} means this feeling of coldness. It does not matter whether it is caused by viruses or bacteria, nor does it matter whether it is for a short period or for a long period. As Chocolate noted, it also means the similar feeling caused by fear. The word “chill” in English has a similar meaning.

(Do not confuse with a separate word [寒気]{かんき}, which is written in the same way in kanji.)

  • Does 寒気(さむけ) overlap with 悪寒 then? Although I don't think 悪寒 implies having a fever/cold, does it?
    – istrasci
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 18:36
  • @istrasci: (1) Yes, 寒気 (さむけ) and 悪寒 are quite similar. In fact, 悪寒 implies being sick more strongly than 寒気 because I think that 悪寒 is limited to the feeling of coldness arising from being sick and not the one arising from fear. (2) I changed the wording in the answer a little, because one can feel 寒気 (and 悪寒 for that matter) from sickness even when one does not actually have a fever (high body temperature). In this sense, feeling 寒気 or 悪寒 does not logically imply having a fever. Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 19:07
  • What would you say to convey having non-illness chills? I am a 寒がり, so there are some winter mornings where I'm not sick and I just cannot get warm. I've used 悪寒 before (今朝はずっと悪寒!), but from what you said, this wasn't correct because I wasn't sick.
    – istrasci
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 19:11
  • @istrasci: I personally think that it is incorrect to use the word 悪寒 in that situation. If someone says 悪寒がする, I definitely think that he/she feels sick and not that he/she feels the cold easily. (But other people may have different opinions…let’s wait for other people to chime in!) Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 19:21
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    @istrasci: I forgot to reply to this part: “What would you say to convey having non-illness chills?” I would say something along “寒い,” “寒く感じる,” “すうすうする,” and “すこすこする.” The last one might be dialectal (I am not sure). Commented Dec 22, 2012 at 21:48

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