AskDefine | Define icebox

Dictionary Definition

icebox n : white goods in which food can be stored at low temperatures [syn: refrigerator]

User Contributed Dictionary



ice + box, as before electric refrigeration it was literally a box loaded with ice to keep things cold


  1. A box containing ice, used to keep food cold.
  2. A compartment in a refrigerator that is colder than the rest of the refrigerator and is used as a freezer.
  3. A refrigerator.


  1. agreeable, awesome.


  • 1982, Alexei Sayle, The Young Ones
    MIKE: Yeah, yeah, so. So we'll forget about the rent, we'll pay you another time, is that cool?
    BALOWSKI: Yes, that's absolutely icebox! See you later, Ford Anglia!


box containing ice used to keep food cold
compartment of a refrigerator used as a freezer
refrigerator See refrigerator

Extensive Definition

An Icebox was the common appliance for providing refrigeration in the home before safe refrigerants made compact mechanical refrigerators useful. Commonly iceboxes were made of wood, most probably for ease of construction, insulation, and aesthetics: many were handsome pieces of furniture.
Iceboxes had hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with various insulating materials such as cork, sawdust, straw or seaweed. A large block of ice was held in a tray or compartment near the top of the box. Cold air circulated down and around storage compartments in the lower section. Some finer models had spigots for draining ice water from a catch pan or holding tank. In cheaper models a drip pan was placed under the box and had to be emptied at least daily.

Historical application

Iceboxes date back to the days of ice harvesting which in a growing America had hit an industrial high that ran from the mid-19th century to the 1930s when the refrigerator was introduced into the home. Most municipally-consumed ice was harvested in winter from snow-packed areas or frozen lakes. The ice was stored in ice houses, or shipped as far as India by Frederic Tudor, the "Ice King."
With metropolitan growth many of the sources of natural ice became contaminated from industrial pollution or sewer runoff. As early mechanical refrigerators became available, they were installed as large industrial plants producing ice for home delivery. Able to produce clean, sanitary ice year-round, their product gradually replaced ice harvested from ponds. With wide-spread electrification and safer refrigerants, mechanical refrigeration in the home became possible. With the development of the chlorofluorocarbons (along with the succeeding hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons), that came to replace the use of toxic ammonia gas, the refrigerator replaced the icebox. However, because of the prevalence of the icebox in recent human history, the name "icebox" is still used colloquially for the modern home refrigerator by older Americans in some regions.
The horse-drawn ice wagon and the daily occupation of the iceman, who made regular door-to-door deliveries of block ice for iceboxes, was as much a social institution as the milk man.
Apartment buildings had small doors that opened to the ice box from the back porch. The ice man would bring the block of ice and insert it into the ice box through this door. Ice was delivered on a regular basis to these buildings and the people would pay for the ice. Children would go on the ice wagon and take chips of fallen ice as treats during the summer

Icebox picture gallery

Popular Culture

In the 1950's television show The Honeymooners, the Kramdens' apartment featured an obsolete ice box to emphasize their financially strapped working class living conditions.
icebox in French: Glacière
icebox in Norwegian: Isskap
icebox in Norwegian Nynorsk: Isskap
icebox in Polish: Lodówka
icebox in German: Eisschrank
icebox in Swedish: Isskåp
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