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The idea that Inuit have 15+ words for snow, is a myth.

Please note that outside of Alaskan natives, the word "Eskimo" is considered derogatory. It is not an umbrella term for all Inuit people. As it is a culturally sensitive word, please proceed in a respectful manner.

Dinosaurs discussing language.

The myth that Eskimos or Inuit have some improbable number of words for snow (sometimes it’s 50, sometimes it’s as high as 400) is pervasive, but a myth nonetheless. In 1986, Laura Martin, a professor of modern languages at Cleveland State University, traced the origin of the claim back to a man called Franz Boas. In 1911, Boas wrote – as a throwaway line, illustrating a point about how languages resemble each other – that there are, as Martin paraphrases, “four lexically unrelated words for snow in Eskimo: aput ‘snow on the ground’, qana ‘falling snow’, piqsirpoq ‘drifting snow’, and qimuqsuq ‘a snow drift’”. Boas didn’t make much effort to distinguish between words, roots of words, and other terms, Martin says.

The myth began to take hold in the 1940s, when a man called Benjamin Whorf wrote about Eskimo vocabulary.

Whorf is a major – and majorly controversial – figure in the study of language. He’s the man behind the largely debunked Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, also known as linguistic relativity, which says that the words we know dictate the thoughts we can have. His claim was that because Eskimos have extra words for snow, they are capable of thinking about snow in ways that others can’t. He seems to have taken Boas’s four vague examples, and, in a 1940 Technology Review article called “Science and linguistics”, expanded upon them:


Click here to read the full article.

Before you toss out the idea that languages shape the way we think, just because the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has been largely critiqued and parts debunked, check out this post, titled "How languages shape the way we think.

March 7, 2017



Kate Bush - 50 words for snow


Incluyendo en Klingon a 7:13

Sería mejor usar la palabra inuit, no esquimal.



Kate Bush. Now we're talking!


Hahaha, great cartoon xD--- thanks!

  • 1341

Hm... Russian has for snow: снег, пороша, наст, сугроб, фирн; falling snow: снегопад, метель, вьюга, буран, пурга, позёмка - all are present in normal language, not special/regional/dialect


Hi folks, this is important feedback for me, regarding the title. Thanks!

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