Eskimo/Inuit Words for Snow
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
2.'bare ice' tingenek
3.'snow (in general)' aput
4.'snow (like salt)' pukak
5.'soft deep snow' mauja
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
10.'snow blown in (e.g. doorway)' sullarniq
12.'frost (on inner surface of e.g. window)' iluq
13.'icy mist' pujurak/pujuq kanirnartuq
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
25.'large ice floe' iluitsuq
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
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
The stereotypical Eskimo name Nanook corresponds to "nanuq"
P. Derby from The AFU and Urban Legend Archive Language
Mark Halpern adds:
The following letter appeared on page 8 of New York
magazine for June 13, 1994:
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
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)