“Kanevvluk” And 27 More Inuit Words For Snow

December 23, 2021
By Sarah Angela Almaden
The Benefits Of Audiobooks For Learning Languages

Unsplash: @greenland

Isn't the first fall of snow one of the most magical moments you can ever experience? Whatever time the snow may fall, it’s always a time worth pausing. Think about it, if the first fall of snow happens as you’re taking a stroll what would you do? Find a shelter or stand and bask in its splendor?

For sure, you would choose the latter — to stand outside and feel every drop of snow touch your skin, despite the cold weather. However, if you choose to find shelter, you can still admire the beauty of the powdery flakes from afar.

Legend has it that the Inuits have about 50 words for snow. Yes, it sounds quite a lot. But the thing is, there isn’t one Inuit language. Inuit language is part of the Eskimo-Aleut Language family. Such languages are spoken across Greenland and Canada. You could say there is some truth to the said legend, right?

The reason for this group of languages to have hundreds of words for snow is because of polysynthesis. Polysynthesis means that the base word is attached to many suffixes that can change its meaning. Therefore, one word is usually made from smaller units

Eskimo languages don't really have hundreds of words for snow, rather they have hundreds of ways to describe it. Here are some examples:

  • Qanuk – snowflake
  • Qanir – to snow
  • Qanunge – to snow
  • Qanugglir – to snow
  • Kanek – to frost
  • Kanevvluk – fine snow
  • Qanikcaq – snow on ground
  • Muraneq – soft deep snow
  • Nataryuk – fresh snow
  • Pirta – blizzard
  • Qengaruk – snow bank
  • Kaner – to frost
  • Kanevcir – to get fine snow
  • Natquik – drifting snow
  • Nevluk – clinging debris
  • Nevlugte – have clinging debris or snow
  • Aniu – snow on the ground
  • Apun – snow on the ground
  • Qetrar – for snow to crust
  • Qerretrar – for snow to crust
  • Qanisqineq – snow floating on water
  • Utvak – snow carved in block
  • Navcaq – snow about to collapse
  • Pircir – to blizzard
  • Pirtuk – blizzard or snowstorm
  • Pirrelvag – to blizzard heavily
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