Cold is the fiercest and most widespread enemy of life on earth. Natural cold adaptation and survival are discussed in terms of physicochemical and biochemical water management mechanisms, relying on thermodynamic or kinetic stabilization. Distinctions are drawn between general effects of low temperature (chill) and specific effects of freezing. Freeze tolerance is a misnomer because tolerance does not extend to the cell fluids. Freezing is confined to the extracellular spaces where it acts as a means of protecting the cytoplasm against freezing injury. Freeze resistance depends on the phenomenon of undercooling, a survival mechanism that relies on the long-term maintenance of a thermodynamically highly unstable state. Correct water management involves many factors, among them the control of membrane composition and transmembrane osmotic equilibrium, the biosynthesis of compounds able to afford protection against injury through freeze desiccation and the availability (or inactivation) of biogenic ice nucleation catalysts.