Snaw-Pouther? 421 Scots Words For Snow

23 September 2015, 00:00

The Scots have hundreds of words for snow - more than the Inuit reputedly do, researchers have found.

Academics cataloguing different Scots words for the white stuff have officially logged 421 terms, including the most obvious "snaw" but also "sneesl'' - to begin to rain or snow - and "skelf'' - a large snowflake.

The words will all be featured in a new Scots thesaurus, the first part of which is being published online.

The study by the University of Glasgow is part of a pilot project to compile the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots, classifying every word in the Scots language from earliest records to the present day.

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

Other Scots words relating to snow include "feefle" - to swirl; "spitters'' - small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow; "snaw-pouther'' - fine driving snow; and "flindrikin'' - a slight snow shower.

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.

"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.''

As well as snow and marbles, the new thesaurus 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 another large one - rain.

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