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Disclaimer: There are a lot of questions packed in but their answers are interdependent.

Different textures of snow can be described as "wet" and "dry". Considering that water is the quintessence of wetness and snow is water, is it accurate to describe snow as being dry?

Is there a fallacy in the above syllogism because water in its frozen form is not water but ice and therefore even though snow is made of water it is not the case that it is water?

If so, is wetness a property that can only exist in non-freezing conditions?

Are all of the above questions predicated on the false assumption that the adjective "dry", when applied to snow is intended to be literal when in fact it is figurative?

  • "Is there a fallacy in the above syllogism because water in its frozen form is not water but ice and therefore even though snow is made of water it is not the case that it is water?" Yes, exactly. Water in its frozen form is water in some aspects (chemically, etc.), but not in all (most daily usage, etc.). Generally water is only wet in liquid condition. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jan 12 '11 at 21:59
  • Water is stereotypically wet, but as explained in the answers to the following question, "wet" is not just defined as "containing water": Can “wet” be used for liquids other than water? – herisson Oct 25 '16 at 20:46
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Dry means (NOAD here, but others would give similar definition) “free from moisture or liquid”. Snow is a mixture of ice crystals (a solid form of water), liquid water, and some water vapour (usually in negligible amount due to the temperature). So, snow is dry if it's mostly composed of ice crystals, and wet if it has an important part of liquid water mixed in.

In that sense, wet is somewhat synonymous with slushy.

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Ice could be dry (even if it isn't carbon dioxide ice) if it is so cold that there is no discernable trace of water on it, and so could snow if it were the fluffy powdery kind rather than the slushy kind.

Wet usually means having liquid water about (sometimes other liquids) either literally or figuratively. It might even mean having water vapour around (wet gases). Also, being made from water doesn't mean something is water; people are chiefly water and are not normally described as wet, except in a figurative sense as I mentioned earlier.

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If wine can be dry (even though it's indubitably a liquid), then snow can be too. In the first case, dry is meant in a sort-of-figurative sense (it has a dry taste); in the second it means that it's not sticking together as a liquid or semi-liquid would - it's "dry" like a powder.

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    I don't agree: when dry is applied to a wine, it's not in the same sense as used for snow (the NOAD has: “dry: 4. (of an alcoholic drink) not sweet”). For snow, it is actually used literaly, in the sense of “free from liquid” (and not “free from water”). – F'x Jan 12 '11 at 20:26
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Snow can have a variety of different properties. Ask a skier or snowmobiler, and most likely they will speak to you at length about it. Ask a skier what it's like to ski in powder.

Like any other noun, a variety of words can be used to describe it, even words that would seem at first glance to be oxymoronic. When compared to other types of snow, some can be wet, and some can be dry.

We use the word snow rather liberally to describe a variety of winter conditions. For example, when it snows 8 inches, then the temperature rises and it rains a half-inch, the resulting mix is still "snow" even though a quantity of rain is contained within it.

To put it into another context, "jumbo shrimp" makes no sense, if shrimp are supposed to be small. However, jumbo shrimp are large when put in the context of other shrimp.

  • Downvoters, I'd encourage discussion about why you think my answer isn't accurate. I'm from somewhere that gets a fair bit of snow. – Zoot Oct 25 '16 at 18:59
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    I can only guess why it was downvoted, but to me, it seems like this answer somewhat misses the point that is explained in the accepted answer: snow can be quite literally "dry," because "dry" doesn't always mean "free from H2O," it also (perhaps more commonly) means "free from moisture or liquid." Snow could be considered "dry" in more contexts than just comparisons between different types of snow; some snow might even be dryer than, say, a sopping wet towel, in the sense that if you touch the towel, your hand will get wet more easily than if you touch the snow. – herisson Oct 25 '16 at 20:45

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