Mair Snaw.

A few years ago, I quoted “one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, Hugh MacDiarmid,” titling the post with the last line of the poem, “It’s juist mair snaw!” Now, courtesy of BBC News, we learn there’s even mair snaw — 421 words for it, to be precise:

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.


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.”

As Mark Liberman says at the Log, “Despite the source being BBC News, the article is only slightly misleading”; you can read about his quest to find the words in the Historical Thesaurus of Scots at that link. Thanks, Eric and Trevor!


  1. Wait, what, no comments here after 4 days? Scots have eight times as many words for snow as Inuits? Impossible! Actually, perhaps the more literate a culture, the more words it generates for anything at all.

  2. Bless you for taking this puir unloved post under your wing! And yes, your final point is unassailable.

  3. David Marjanović says

    “Despite the source being BBC News, the article is only slightly misleading”

    I love this.

  4. Yes, that’s a great line.

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