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More Eskimo/Inuit Words for Snow

Note that these lists include "ice". You might read through the list and decide how many words are specific to "snow" (and how much difference that might make to the argument).

10 words for ice and snow from Labradoran Inuit
1.'ice' sikko
2.'bare ice' tingenek
3.'snow (in general)' aput
4.'snow (like salt)' pukak
5.'soft deep snow' mauja
6.'snowdrift' tipvigut
7.'soft snow' massak
8.'watery snow' mangokpok
9.'snow filled with water' massalerauvok
10.'soft snow' akkilokipok

49 words for snow and ice from West Greenlandic

(word list taken from Fortescue's West Greenlandic grammar).

1.'sea-ice' siku (in plural = drift ice)
2.'pack-ice/large expanses of ice in motion' sikursuit, pl. (compacted drift ice/ice field = sikut iqimaniri)
3.'new ice' sikuliaq/sikurlaaq (solid ice cover = nutaaq.)
4.'thin ice' sikuaq (in plural = thin ice floes)
5.'rotten (melting) ice floe' sikurluk
6.'iceberg' iluliaq (ilulisap itsirnga = part of iceberg below waterline)
7.'(piece of) fresh-water ice' nilak
8.'lumps of ice stranded on the beach' issinnirit, pl.
9.'glacier' (also ice forming on objects) sirmiq (sirmirsuaq = Inland Ice)
10.'snow blown in (e.g. doorway)' sullarniq
11.'rime/hoar-frost' qaqurnak/kanirniq/kaniq
12.'frost (on inner surface of e.g. window)' iluq
13.'icy mist' pujurak/pujuq kanirnartuq
14.'hail' nataqqurnat
15.'snow (on ground)' aput (aput sisurtuq = avalanche)
16.'slush (on ground)' aput masannartuq
17.'snow in air/falling' qaniit (qanik = snowflake)
18.'air thick with snow' nittaalaq (nittaallat, pl. = snowflakes; nittaalaq nalliuttiqattaartuq = flurries)
19.'hard grains of snow' nittaalaaqqat, pl.
20.'feathery clumps of falling snow' qanipalaat
21.'new fallen snow' apirlaat
22.'snow crust' pukak
23.'snowy weather' qannirsuq/nittaatsuq
24.'snowstorm' pirsuq/pirsirsursuaq
25.'large ice floe' iluitsuq
26.'snowdrift' apusiniq
27.'ice floe' puttaaq
28.'hummocked ice/pressure ridges in pack ice' maniillat/ingunirit, pl.
29.'drifting lump of ice' kassuq (dirty lump of glacier-calved ice = anarluk)
30.'ice-foot (left adhering to shore)' qaannuq
31.'icicle' kusugaq
32.'opening in sea ice imarnirsaq/ammaniq (open water amidst ice = imaviaq)
33.'lead (navigable fissure) in sea ice' quppaq
34.'rotten snow/slush on sea' qinuq
35.'wet snow falling' imalik
36.'rotten ice with streams forming' aakkarniq
37.'snow patch (on mountain, etc.)' aputitaq
38.'wet snow on top of ice' putsinniq/puvvinniq
39.'smooth stretch of ice' manirak (stretch of snow-free ice = quasaliaq)
40.'lump of old ice frozen into new ice' tuaq
41.'new ice formed in crack in old ice' nutarniq
42.'bits of floating' naggutit, pl.
43.'hard snow' mangiggal/mangikaajaaq
44.'small ice floe (not large enough to stand on)' masaaraq
45.'ice swelling over partially frozen river, etc. from water seeping up to the surface' siirsinniq
46.'piled-up ice-floes frozen together' tiggunnirit
47.'mountain peak sticking up through inland ice' nunataq
48.'calved ice (from end of glacier)' uukkarnit
49.'edge of the (sea) ice' sinaaq


While English "igloo" meaning 'snow house' comes from Inuit, "iglo" (or "illu") more generally means 'house' or home' in most dialects. Sometimes houses are constructed of peat[3,4]. English "kayak" comes from Intuit "qayaq" (means the same)[3,4].
The stereotypical Eskimo name Nanook corresponds to "nanuq" 'polar bear'

Ref:Stuart P. Derby from The AFU and Urban Legend Archive Language

And Mark Halpern adds:

The following letter appeared on page 8 of New York magazine for June 13, 1994:

In the "Fast Track" piece "The Very, Very Tiresome Season of Storms" [by Steven J. Dubner, February 28], Dr. Steven Pinker of MIT is quoted as saying that Eskimos don't really have hundreds of different words for snow. He states, "They have exactly as many or perhaps two or three more words than English speakers."
I have spent the past 22 years living in an Inupiat Eskimo community. According to the North Slope Borough's Inupiat History, Language, and Culture division, the Inupiats have more than 30 words for snow, and more than 70 for ice. In the Arctic, the specific conditions of snow and ice are critical to hunting and survival; two or three words would hardly cover our needs.

Elise Sereni Patkotak
Public Information Officer
North Slope Borough
Barrow, Alaska


In "Landmarks" (pub Hamish Hamilton 2015) Robert MacFarlane notes more than 40 words for peat or turf - including 18 in Gaelic, 2 from Scots, 1 from Orkney and 4 from Shetland. For example:

barr-fhad - topmost layer of peat cut (Gaelic)
steidheadh - peat stack constructed in such a way as to shed rain (Gaelic)
beat - rough sod of moorland, along with the heather growing on it (Devon)
brug - stump of earth standing with the sward intact where the ground has been broken by the continued action of the weather (Shetland)



Eskimo Words for Snow

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