Move over Inuit, Scots has 421 words to describe snow

Research for a new online Scots thesaurus has revealed 421 words for snow
Research for a new online Scots thesaurus has revealed 421 words for snow

The Inuits famously have 50 different words for snow – but that’s just skating the surface compared to Scots, which now officially has 421 words to describe the white stuff.

From ‘snaw’ to ‘sneesl’ and ‘skelf’ to ‘spitters’, researchers at the University of Glasgow have been cataloguing the words to be featured in a new Scots thesaurus, the first part of which is now online.

And if you can think of any more, they’d love to hear them.

The study is part of a pilot project to compile the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots.

Thanks to funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, it plans to classify every word of the Scots language from earliest records to present day.

The first two categories featured on the thesaurus website concentrate on Scots words for weather and sport.

Dr Susan Rennie, Lecturer in English and Scots Language at the University of Glasgow, said: “The number and variety of words in the language show how important it was for our ancestors to communicate about the weather, which could so easily affect their livelihoods.”

They’ve also found that sport was as much of a talking point for Scots of old as it is today.

But it isn’t football that claims the most sporting Scots words: marbles scores here, with 369 words.

These include: deaffy (a clay marble: dull in action, without bounce); runtit (having lost all one’s marbles to one’s opponent); and nieve (a method of cheating in delivering the shot by advancing the hand).

It all shows just how popular the game has been with generations of Scottish children, says Dr Rennie.

Next up for the team are more weather words, including rain – which could lead to a deluge of entries.

She added: “There may be other words out there we are not yet aware of, and we would welcome the support of the public.

“If they use or remember words for particular sports or weather, we would love to hear about them.

“We would also welcome pictures to create a fully illustrated thesaurus.”

You can log comments or photographs at Scots Thesaurus, or through Twitter @scotsthesaurus.

Other Scots words for snow

Feefle – to swirl, as of snow round a corner

Feuchter – of snow: to fall lightly, to come down in odd flakes

Snaw-ghast – an apparition seen in the snow

Spitters – small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow

Blin-drift – drifting snow

Flindrikin – a slight snow-shower

Snaw-pouther – fine driving snow