Eskimo Snow




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Eskimo and northern Indian tribes like the Chippewas (Ojibwas) enriched their language with many words for snow: each describing a different aspect or quality.

Chippewas distinguished between fluffy snows, deep snows where snowshoes were needed and places blown bare of snow.  Warm, Chinook winds were called "snow eaters."

Eskimo Snow: From Aput to Aputaitok

Eskimo and Northern Indian Snow Terms

aput: the general term for a spread of snow

sasaq: a snowflake

apingaut: the first falling snow

kannerk: the falling snow 

kannertok: the current snow

apiyok: a covering snow 

perksertok: drifting snow 

akelrorak: newly drifted snow 

dux: a snowstorm 
igadug: a violent snowstorm 
tiluktortok: beating snow
panar: sharp snow 
pokaktok (pokak): salty snow 
massak: watery snow 
sitidlorak: hard snow 
mauyak (mauyaolertok): soft snow 
mauyasiorpok: soft snow for traveling
taiga: soft deep snow where snowshoes are needed for travel 
qali: snow that collects on trees 
qumaniq: snow in the depressions around the base of trees 
putak: bottom layer of coarse granulated snow 
api: snow on ground 
aniusarpok: snow that a dog eats 
aniuk (anio): snow for melting for water 
auverk: snow for building 
ayak: snow on clothes 
aputainnarowok: much snow on clothes 
tiluktorpok: snow beaten from clothes 
aputierpok: cleaned off snow 
aputaitok: no snow
In fact, Indians and Eskimos had such respect for winter that they measured their age by recounting the number of snow seasons they had survived, just as they named each month's moon.
From The Aleut Language, U.S. Department of Interior. 1944 and English-Eskimo, Eskimo-English Dictionary, Canadian Research Center for Anthropology, 1970.


Detailed knowledge of the environment was essential to the survival of native people and because snow played such a large part in their activities, they had many words to describe the variations [source and language unknown].  
Anniu: snow 
Qali: snow that collects on trees 
Api: snow on ground 
Pukak: deep hoar snow 
Upsik: wind beaten snow 
Siqoq smoky or drifting snow 
Saluma roaq: smooth snow surface of very fine particles 
Natatgo naq: rough snow surface of large particles 
Siqoqtoaq: sun crust 
Kimoaqruk: drift 
Anymanya: space formed between drift & obstruction causing it 
Kaioglaq: sharply etched wind-eroded surface (sastrugi or skavler) 
Tumarinyiq: irregular surface caused by differential erosion of hard and soft layers 
Qamaniq: bowl shaped depression in snow around the base of trees 
Some of these words have since been assimilated into the English language.


The Qaernermiut Eskimo differentiate between 3 kinds of snow for house building:

Ariloqaq: Loose, newly fallen snow. This cannot be used at all as is, but can provide good building material- when compacted. With soft snow, however, there is a danger that the dome will collapse or be worn off in a storm.
Pukajaw: Firm snow. This is the easiest to cut and the warmest, and so is preferred.
Sitijucuaw: Drift snow, hard as stone. In the spring, the firm snow is inclined to collapse and then the hard drift snow is used.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.