single-digit air

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Senior Member

Can someone please explain what 'single-digit' means in this sentence: 'Watched my breath puff into the single-​­digit air.' (Lisa Gardner, 'Catch Me'.). The action takes place during a cold winter morning and I assume this might have something to do with frost or visible breath in low temperature. But what does 'single-digit' exactly stand for in this context?
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    If the author is American (or from Britain but not very recently) the temperature scale they are familiar with will be the Fahrenheit scale. Water freezes at 32° on that scale, so a temperature reading with a single digit, like 8°, will be very cold. Or possibly the author feels that temperatures less than 9°C carry the same concept of coldness. Either way, it refers to the temperature in degrees.


    Senior Member
    American English
    I take it to mean "the temperature is so low it would be given in single digits". That is, the temperature is between 0 and 9 degrees (inclusive).

    The use of Celsius or Fahrenheit is not specified... but in any case it is cold enough to see one's breath.
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