Eskimo, Esquimaux and snow…….

The number of different Inuit words for snow has been the subject of endless debate, few people taking into account the fact that the now-offensive group name ‘Eskimo’ (from the French Esquimaux, derived from North American Algonquian and literally meaning ‘eaters of raw flesh’) covers a number of different language areas: Inuit in Greenland and Canada Yupik in Eastern Siberia and Aleut in Alaska. Here is a selection of words for snow from some Inuit languages:

snow, kaniktshaq; no snow, aputaitok; to snow, qanir, qanunge, qanugglir; snowy weather, nittaatsuq, qannirsuq; to get fine snow or rain particles, kanevcir; first falling, apingaut; light falling, qannialaag; wet and falling, natatgo naq; in the air, falling, qaniit; feathery clumps of falling snow, qanipalaat; air thick with snow, nittaalaq; rippled surface of snow, kaiyuglak; light, deep enough for walking, katik-sugnik; fresh without any ice, kanut; crusty, sillik; soft for travelling, mauyasiorpok; soft and deep where snowshoes are needed for travel, taiga; powder, nutagak; salty, pokaktok; wind-beaten, upsik; fresh, nutaryuk; packed, aniu; sharp, panar; crusty that breaks under foot, karakartanaq; rotten, slush on sea, qinuq; best for building an igloo, pukaan-gajuq; glazed in a thaw, kiksrukak; watery, mangokpok; firm (the easiest to cut, the warmest, the preferred), pukajaw; loose, newly fallen which cannot be used as it is, but can provide good building material when compacted, ariloqaq; for melting into water, aniuk; that a dog eats, aniusarpok; that can be broken through, mauya; floating on water, qanisqineq; for building, auverk; on clothes, ayak; beaten from clothes, tiluktorpok; much on clothes, aputainnarowok; crust, pukak;  formation about to collapse, navcaq; on the boughs of trees, qali; blown indoors, sullarniq; snowdrift overhead and about to fall, mavsa; snowdrift that blocks something, kimaugruk; smoky drifting snow, siqoq; arrow-shaped snowdrift, kaluto-ganiq; newly drifting snow, akelrorak; space between drifts and obstruction, anamana, anymanya; snowstorm, pirsuq, pirsirsursuaq, qux; violent snowstorm, igadug; blizzard, pirta, pirtuk; avalanche, sisuuk, aput sisurtuq; to get caught in an avalanche, navcite.

There are also a large number of Inuit words for ice, covering everything from icicles through ‘solidly frozen slush’ to ‘open pack ice in seawater’.

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