The Scottish are really giving the Inuit a run for their money when it comes to piling up snow-related words. A few years ago, academics reported that they had found over 400 Scottish words for snow – 421, to be exact.
Why are there so many words for snow?
If you live in a snowy place, you know that there are different kinds of snow – wet snow, powdery snow, heavy snow, snow that makes good snowmen, lake effect snow, etc.
After spending years working through historical documents written in the Scots language, it turns out the people of Scotland really got descriptive! Academics at the University of Glasgow organized the Historical Thesaurus of Scots into some interesting categories, including (but not limited to):
- types of snow
- actions that involve throwing snow
- pre-snow weather conditions
- snow accessories
- snow words related to sheep
What are some Scottish words for snow?
According to the BBC (cited below), the words that will go into the thesaurus include:
- snaw – snow (viewed either as falling flakes, or as the layer of these formed on the ground)
- feefle – to swirl
- flindrikin – a slight snow shower
- sneesl – to begin to rain or snow
- snaw-pouther – fine driving snow
- spitters – small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow
- unbrak – the beginning of a thaw
- skelf – a large snowflake
But our favorites are “Katty-clean-doors,” which is a child’s name for snow, and “smirr,” which refers to a fine rain, drizzle, or of sleet or snow.”
The Scots thesaurus
Of course, we all have lots of words that mean roughly the same thing – there are thesauruses for nearly every language. But we’re still impressed by just how diverse the Scots language is.
The Scots thesaurus also includes a category on sport and believe it or not, the game of marbles has the most words associated with it at 369. – WTF fun facts