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SNAW n snow


If we take an imaginative approach to looking up the Dictionary of the Scots Language, we can some unearth real linguistic treasures. You might like to try this at home. Visit and select ‘Advanced Search’ with ‘Full text of entries’ and ‘Exclude quotations’. Then search for SNOW. This gives you a huge list of words mostly with ‘snow’ in the definition.

The first one to come up is ‘yertdrift’: drifting snow, snow-shower accompanied by a high wind that causes the snow to drift. Further down comes ‘skalva’: soft flaky snow. ‘Kaavie’, to fall heavily and in drifts, is illustrated by this quotation from the Shetland Times (1931):


“Da snaa an’ hail kaavie’n is tik is da pea-soup”.


The delightful ‘feefle’ means to swirl as of snow round a corner. A ‘feuchter’ is a slight fall of snow. A ‘moor’ is a dense fall of powdery snow and in this entry we find it combined with ‘kaavie’ in the Shetland Times (1931):


“Wi da snaa moorie-kaavie’n it ye widna a seen a skorie apo’ da stem-heid”.


The onomatopoeic word ‘shurl’ is defined as a glissade of accumulated snow from a roof after a thaw, or the noise made by this. You can just feel a ‘scudder’ of snow or rain. A ‘flaucht’ is a broad flake. ‘Slubber’ is half-melted snow, and sounds so much messier than slush. ‘Sodie’ intrudes into the list of wintery words because of this quotation from The Observer (1996):


“Just as the Inuit have 80 words for snow, ... as do the number of ways Scots enjoy hitting each other (coup, belt, dunt, scud), and there’s a wheen of ways to insult the stupid (gowk, numpty, nyaff, tube, chunty-heid, sodie-heid, diddy and dafty)”.


Just take a look at the Dictionary of the Scots Language and you’ll see that we leave the Inuit far behind.

This Scots Word of the Week was written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.

First published 28th December 2014.