Ming the Mechanic:
Eskimos and Snow

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Eskimos and Snow2004-12-01 18:11
picture by Flemming Funch

It is often said that eskimos have a large numbers of words for types of snow, like 60 or so. And almost as often somebody will claim that it is an unfounded falsehood. Somebody even wrote a book on that basis. But now some folks have actually done the logical thing and investigated it a bit. And maybe it isn't exactly 60, but it is at least 32. These are from the Inupiat Eskimo Dictionary by Webster and Zibell:
  • apun: snow
  • apingaut: first snowfall
  • aput: spread-out snow
  • kanik: frost
  • kanigruak: frost on a living surface
  • ayak: snow on clothes
  • kannik: snowflake
  • nutagak: powder snow
  • aniu: packed snow
  • aniuvak: snowbank
  • natigvik: snowdrift
  • kimaugruk: snowdrift that blocks something
  • perksertok: drifting snow
  • akelrorak: newly drifting snow
  • mavsa: snowdrift overhead and about to fall
  • kaiyuglak: rippled surface of snow
  • pukak: sugar snow
  • pokaktok: salt-like snow
  • miulik: sleet
  • massak: snow mixed with water
  • auksalak: melting snow
  • aniuk: snow for melting into water
  • akillukkak: soft snow
  • milik: very soft snow
  • mitailak: soft snow covering an opening in an ice floe
  • sillik: hard, crusty snow
  • kiksrukak: glazed snow in a thaw
  • mauya: snow that can be broken through
  • katiksunik: light snow
  • katiksugnik: light snow deep enough for walking
  • apuuak: snow patch
  • sisuuk: avalanche
There you go, 32. And, now that's what was found in a particular Inupiat to English dictionary. I can only guess that the guy who found it was an English-speaking person who searched a text file on "snow" and a few other things he could think of, like "sleet" and "frost". So I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were words and variations that weren't in the dictionary and words that weren't found because the English translation didn't mention "snow". Anyway, that was just one Eskimo dialect. Others get different, but similar sets of results. Around 30 root "lexemes" in another dialect. And those languages also seem to have a large number of possible inflections and conjugations and combinations based on the roots that could add up to hundreds of snow related words.

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1 Dec 2004 @ 22:13 by Avi Solomon @ : Eskimo Snow
Not to mention the infinite emotional connotations that must cling to each of these words; connections to place, season, lifecycle rituals and on and on!  

2 Dec 2004 @ 02:39 by astrid : It's a little bit...
....the same as we have words for green: LIME-green, FOREST-green, GRASS-green,
AVOCADO-green ( not to be forgotten!...) MOSS-green, CHRISTMAS-green etc, etc. Makes a lot of sense!  

2 Dec 2004 @ 09:06 by jstarrs : Not much difference...
...between a snowflake & frost.  

3 Dec 2004 @ 02:11 by Christina @ : Thanks!
I'm glad to find they did have many names for snow after all!  

3 Dec 2004 @ 08:32 by John Töns @ : language
Language is a survival tool " The Limits of My Language are the limits of my world" (Wittgdnstein, Tractatus) Hence pacific islanders have a variety of words to describe the ocean - they can see subtle distinctions that enable them to navigate across open oceans, aboriginal austraolians have a variety of words describing their environment, enabling them to thrive where westerns die, South American Inidans...the list goes on. When these languages die out we lose more than just the language we lose the accumulated wisdom of these people, we lose the quick access to knowledge about a particular place that may never be fully replaced.  

28 Feb 2006 @ 19:59 by Abs @ : Kitanya
NO sights of Kitanya in the valley... I had read that it was a sparkling snow and have seen that this snow could put you into a trance. Floating over a 50 foot ski tower, barely hanging onto to the chair, Licktenstein, Schnieder, and myself Klaus began to witness Kitanya fall on a perfectly sunny day. At elevation 13,000 in the Arapahoe Basin Mountains, the smallest trace of snow reflected the sun at such intensity that a Vortex began to form... Witnessed on Chair 36 at Arapahoe Basin, CO. So blinding that you could not pull your eyes from it...  

10 Sep 2007 @ 18:40 by IHATENATIVES @ : hoopa

1 Oct 2007 @ 09:48 by eugene @ : hehe
they may have cute babies but when they grow up they'll turn ugly like the rest.

11 Apr 2008 @ 11:15 by Molifia manyasha @ : copyright permission
To whom it may concern

I am a student studying at the University of KwaZulu Natal Pietermaritzburg and am doing a power point talk on cancer. please could I use the image that shows a a smiling eskimo at the following web www.newciv.or/pic/nl/artpic/10/1436/eskimo.jpg to illustrate how eskimos have a low rate of cancer occurrance in the talk. if permission is granted, please tell me how you would like the copyright to be acknowledged.

thank you for considering this matter

Molifia Manyasha


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23 Sep 2015 @ 16:35 by sky number @ : sky number
This one is good. keep up the good work!..  

1 May 2016 @ 11:09 by Almena @ : TNoEqisWVtrd
I feel so much happier now I unserdtand all this. Thanks!  

18 Aug 2016 @ 06:58 by National drink of Pakistan @ : Malik
A tragedy around Pakistan is constantly on the worsen when relief resources and guide fall far wanting what is called for. More guide is frantically needed as being the potential for scores of fatalities takes place to loom.  

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