A 1000 words for snow

snomanI’ll start today’s post with enough already! Upon checking today’s weather I see another big storm headed my way.






On a theme, that just happens to fit with my symbol series because words are symbols for thoughts, did you ever hear the phrase Eskimos have a 1000 words for snow? Knowing another storm is rolling in, I have a few words for snow myself. But seriously, that first statement is only partially true.

First off, the indigenous peoples of the icy north are the Inuit and the Yupik and they speak a variety of languages with multiple dialects that fall under the umbrella of “Eskimo–Aleut”. I don’t know about 1000 words for snow, but there are a heck of a lot of words for ice. And the curious thing about it all, there are really just a handful of root words used.

Many Native American languages are polysynthetic, meaning they tend to be long because their root word is added onto with descriptor words and extra bits of nuance (picture the word blackberry. It’s a black berry. It’s also a polysynthetic word.) So how many roots for snow do the Inuit have? Contrary to the myth, there are basically two: qanik for snow in the air, and aput for snow on the ground. To these add descriptors for fluffy snow, slushy snow, clumping snow, snowdrift snow, igloo-building snow, and so on. Some snow/ice words can be very long when all is said and done.

Linguist K. David Harrison, a leading specialist in the study of endangered languages, has written several books on the subject. I’ve read two and found them fascinating reads. In The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages, he talks about how the Yupik peoples have words for at least 99 distinct sea ice formations. 99! All I can think of is iceberg. The Lake Michigan ice balls now come to mind too (scroll to see previous post). He states, “the number of snow/ice/wind/weather terms in some Arctic languages is impressively vast, rich, and complex.”

In The Last Speakers, he refers to their language as packaging. Imagine them as words built up with the added details of experience. I suspect those differences are ultra important when your environment is that harsh. The slightest difference to the quality and tone of snow/ice/wind/weather could cost you big time.Β  I found this BBC documentary that shows you just how harsh.

By packaging words, you get the whole picture down to minute detail and all presented in a useful and useable form. Where we might say melting ice pack, according to K. David Harrison, they’d offer a single word that means something like: “crushed ice beginning to spread out; dangerous to walk on. The ice is dissolving, but still has not dispersed in water, although it is vulnerable for one to fall through and to sink. Sometimes seals can even surface on this ice because the water is starting to appear.”

Language is truly amazing. I just might do a whole blog series on that sometime.Β  πŸ™‚

Tomorrow ~ I’m back on divination symbols.


Another 100 Things Blogging Challenge! For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 65 entries to come.

Here’s one for today:

Yelve (noun common 1000-1886)

dung-fork; garden-fork; to use such a fork


Wash Line Monday!washline Monday

My friend and fellow author E. Ayers, came up with a very cute idea for the Exquisite Quills blog last week and it’s worth mentioning again. We have a day dedicated to clothing. In 300 words or less taken from the pages of their novel, authors can describe what a character is wearing.Β  Come join us today!
Β http://exquisitequills.blogspot.com/


4 Us iconTodayΒ Jayne Ann Krentz is our guest.

The February contest has started on Romance Books ‘4’ Us and it’s all about Cupid. Find the little cherub hidden all across the site to win. This month’s contest will have 2 winners who’ll each receive a $50 gift card for Amazon/B&N, then split the remaining prizes (randomly chosen by RB4U). Be sure to check all our pages for news about authors and their books, publishers and their books, and industry representatives. http://www.romancebooks4us.com/


Several promotional opportunities for romance authors can be found on my Exquisite Quills group blogs. Meet the founding authors and our guests.

Exquisite Quills Yahoo Group

Wash Line Monday ~ share your descriptions of clothing in your novel.
Tickle Us Tuesday ~ Share fun and funny snippets from your novel.
First Kiss Wednesday ~ share your best 300 word kiss.

Set the Scene in Six~ share your backdrop or lead-up on Sundays.
The Genesis of a Book ~ share the spark that ignited your novel.
Author Interviews ~
We’re booking late spring now.

EQ-RR.banner Today’s author: Jana Richards
A new place for your old stars to shine πŸ˜€


all7books-smallLove Waits in Unexpected Places – Scorching Samplings of Unusual Love Stories

Sample my love stories for free!


Coming soon~



About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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10 Responses to A 1000 words for snow

  1. rosgemmell says:

    Sorry you’re having such terrible weather, Rose. We’ve not been too bad in Scotland this year but some parts of England are having dreadful flooding. I’d heard about all those words for snow but you’ve explained the thinking behind it very well. Did you ever read The Snow Child by Iowyn Ivey? It’s set in Alaska in early 20th century and was one of my favourite books last year.

  2. Hi Rose, I heard that saying too, a very long time ago. Also the saying, you can’t (or he can) sell a freezer (or refrigerator) to an eskimo.

    With all the icy weather there, it’s probably best to have so many words for snow and ice.


  3. Ray G says:

    I love the study of etymology. The shifting of meaning of some words to mean the exact opposite is really interesting.

    The meaning of Velve reminds me of the time I got poked in the ass with a tine from a pitchfork. It wasn’t as funny then as it is now.

    • Oh that’s funny, Ray. Velve does sound similar to yell. πŸ˜‰

      I love etymology. I read once where Basque vowel groups were related to Navaho. Stuff like that just makes my imagination skyrocket.

  4. melissakeir says:

    It’s sad that so many native languages are disappearing. But I’m with you…the only words I have for snow are four letter ones. Can we be done?? πŸ™‚

    • lol caught that 4-letter word hint I put in the post, did you?

      I saw a documentary a while back where this woman, I believe she was from Nepal, was the last speaker of her native language. It was incredibly sad.

      We have another whopper storm slated to arrive at 1:00 pm. Ugh. The deep snow is so hard on my old dog.

  5. I’m sending you thawing energy, Rose. Enough is enough. What’s the Eskimo-Aleut word for melt?

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