I've heard it said that Eskimos have many words for snow and that the English have many words for hill. If so what are they?


1 Answer 1


An excerpt from Key Concepts in Language and Linguistics by R.L. Trask:

Those Eskimo words for 'snow'. By a comical series of events, the legend has grown up that the Eskimo languages have vast numbers of words for different kinds of snow. In fact, the several dialects of the two Eskimo languages variously exhibit between two and four distinct words for snow. This is about the same as English with its snow, slush, sleet, blizzard (not to mention skiers' terms like hardpack, powder and crust).

After a quick search, I hit the following words related snow in Alaskan/Eskimo/Inuit languages:

Akkituyok: soft snow
Aput: snow used for a specific purpose
Aquutaq: snow
Mangokpok: watery snow
Massak: soft snow
Massalerauvok: snow filled with water
Mauja: soft deep snow
Pukak: snow crust
Qaniit: falling snow
Qannik: snowflake
Sesi: snow
Tipvigut: snowdrift

Regarding the English words for hill, the following are its synonyms:

brae (Scot.)
down (archaic)

Also see this page for a list of "hill" synonyms and "hill" related words.

  • +1 for quoting Trask's book. I was vaguely reminded of that too when reading the question (or well, a very similar passage in his other book Language: The Basics).
    – Jonik
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 11:46
  • Also "dune" from which "down" originated. The Old English word was dun, pronounced "dune".
    – Robusto
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 14:09
  • 5
    down is not archaic. I used to live on the South Downs. They stretch from the white cliffs of Dover to Winchester.
    – ukayer
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 4:30
  • 1
    @ukayer - I think it (and several of the others) are archaic in general usage - they would no longer be used to mean hill but they would be used to refer to specific hills.
    – neil
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:59
  • 4
    @neil - maybe, but archaic is bit strong. I could go for "down" being used to describe a type of chalk escarpment found in Southern England. In any case, in that area the hills are called "downs" either The North Downs (nearer London) or the South Downs which run along the coast and give rise to the white cliffs of Dover. It is the term commonly used for the hills in that part of the country.
    – ukayer
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 7:01

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