Popularity: Bottom 20% of words
of or relating to snow; resembling snow (as in whiteness); snowy
Did You Know?
Sposh – soft slushy mud or snow
Sposh is thought to be a combination of the words slush and posh, but before you get overly excited about the new factoid with which you plan on boring your in-laws to tears, there are a couple of things you should know. First, posh does not itself come from “port-outward-starboard-home,” or any other acronym. Second, the posh that sposh is based on is a totally different kind of than the one meaning “fashionable”; this one is an archaic word, meaning “a slushy mass (as of mud or broken ice).”
Onding – a heavy fall of rain or snow
Suppose there’s been a heavy snowfall, but it has not met the strict criteria necessary to be called a blizzard by the National Weather Service, and suppose you are the sort of person who cares about such things…well, what do you call that snowfall (other than inconvenient)? You may call it an onding, a lovely regionalism that has been in use in Scotland and Northern England since the middle of the 18th century.
Graupel – granular snow pellets
Graupel, which is sometimes also referred to soft hail, comes to English from German, in which language it is the diminutive of the word for “pearl barley.”. The word appears to have begun being used in the 1870s, when meteorologists of that time decided that there was a need to distinguish between different kinds of hail.
Névé – the partially compacted granular snow that forms the surface part of the upper end of a glacier; broadly : a field of granular snow
Névé is indeed snow, although it is of a more particular kind than just “cold white stuff” (and it is also occasionally called firn. The word comes from a word in the Swiss dialect of French, and, prior to that, comes from the Latin word for snow. Our language has used this Latin root to form a large number of words for snow-related things, although most of them are quite obscure. We have niveous(“resembling snow”), subnivean (“situated or occurring under the snow”), and ninguid (defined by Thomas Blount in 1656 as “where much Snow is”).
Sposh- soft slushy mud or snow
Sposh is thought to be a combination of the words slush and posh, but before you get overly excited about the new factoid with which you plan on boring your in-laws to tears, there are a couple of things you should know. First, posh does not itself come from “port-outward-starboard-home,” or any other acronym. Second, the posh that sposh is based on is a totally different kind of than the one meaning “fashionable”; this one is a word, meaning “a slushy mass (as of mud or broken ice).
firnification – the process whereby snow is changed to névé
Many of the words relating to snow in the English language are short little things, which has doubtless caused some of you to wonder when the fancy words will arrive. Well, firnification is the two dollar word you’ve been looking for. It may be several years before you have an opportunity to use it in the correct context, but just imagine how happy you will be when you find yourself standing on the upper end of a glacier while the snow is actively turning to névé.
grue – thin floating ice: snow
There are several meanings of grue, and the obscurity of each makes one wonder how such a pleasant and useful term should have fallen by the linguistic wayside. In addition to having the definition above, grue may function as a verb, meaning “to shiver or shudder, especially with fear or cold,” and with a number of additional noun senses, including “a fit of shivering” and “gruesome quality or effect.
Corn Snow – granular snow formed by alternate thawing and freezing
Corn snow is also referred to as spring snow, and occasionally simply as corn. It is one of the more recent additions to our vocabulary of snow types, beginning to be used (mainly in describing ski conditions) in the early 20th century.