Scots 'have 421 words' for snow

  • Published
WinterImage source, Thinkstock

Scotland has more than 400 words and expressions for snow, according to a project to compile a Scots thesaurus.

Academics have officially logged 421 terms - including "snaw" (snow), "sneesl" (to begin to rain or snow) and "skelf" (a large snowflake).

The study by the University of Glasgow is part of a project to compile the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots, which is being published online.

The research team have also appealed for people to send in their own words.

It is often said that the Inuit have 50 different words for snow. Other Scots examples include:

  • feefle - to swirl
  • flindrikin - a slight snow shower
  • snaw-pouther - fine driving snow
  • spitters - small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow
  • unbrak - the beginning of a thaw

The first two categories featured in the thesaurus concentrate on Scots words for weather and sport - with marbles taking the crown ahead of football at 369 words.

Dr Susan Rennie, lecturer in English and Scots language at the university, said: "Weather has been a vital part of people's lives in Scotland for centuries. 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.

"You might expect sports like football and golf to loom large in the thesaurus, but it turns out that there are actually more words relating to marbles - which is an indication of how popular the game has been with generations of Scottish children."

Word appeal

Dr Rennie added: "There may be other words out there that we are not yet aware of, and that is where 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 also welcome photographs, which can be uploaded on our website. We already have some images online to illustrate Scots words for clouds, for example, but we would like more to make this a fully-illustrated thesaurus."

The new thesaurus also covers sports such as golf and shinty, and the many Scots words for clouds and mist. The team will be adding new categories over the next few months, including one for rain.

Members of the public are invited to log comments or photographs on the website at, or through Twitter @scotsthesaurus.

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.