Snow By Any Other Name. . .

Snow is beautiful when it first falls. When its pristine whiteness covers everything, it creates a gorgeous winter wonderland. Unfortunately, it has to melt, and when it does, the beautiful winter wonderland turns into a dirty mess that is not pleasing to look at. Sposh, soft slushy mud or snow, is one of the words you can use to describe this mess.

heavy snow, wikimedia commons

Snirt—this sounds like a Dr. Seuss word to me—could also be used to describe this mushy yuckiness, especially when it has been blown around by an angry wind. As you probably figured out, it is a blend of the words “snow” and “dirt.”

Heavy snow
In order for a heavy snow to be classified as a blizzard, there are certain criteria that it has to meet: it has to have been snowing for at least three hours with the wind blowing 35 miles per hour and the visibility has to be less than a quarter mile.

If you have heavy snowfall without the high winds and/or restricted visibility, it is called onding, a word which simply means a heavy fall of snow or rain.

Have you ever been in a snowstorm that came out of nowhere? It lasted only a short period of time then disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. This is called a snow squall.

a dusting of snow and ice, geograph.ie

Light snow and ice
Scutch is a light dusting of snow.

A skift is a light fall of snow. A skift is also a thin layer of snow or frost on the ground or a thin layer of ice on the water.

A skimp is a thin layer of snow or ice.

Thin floating ice is known as grue. This word also has some other wonderful meanings. As a verb, grue means to shudder with fear or cold. Other noun meanings are the act of shivering or a creeping of the flesh. I think I can see why this word was chosen for thin floating ice.

trees in the snow, public domain

More snow words
Snow pellets are crisp, white, opaque ice particles that are round or conical in shape and are about two to five millimeters in diameter. They normally melt away soon after they hit the ground. Snow pellets are also called grampel, graupel, soft hail, or tapioca snow.

Névé is the granular snow that accumulates on high mountains and subsequently compacts into glacial ice. This type of snow can also be called firn. During the time the snow is being compacted into glacial ice, this process is known as firnification.

snow, wikimedia commons

Corn snow is granular snow that is formed by alternate thawing and freezing. This is also called spring snow or simply corn. I have never been skiing, but I’ve read that this type of dry and crunchy snow is perfect for skiers.

Snow that falls in small flakes is known as flour-sifter snow.

One April, snow fell like crazy where I live while it thundered. We had never seen this before and had no clue what to call it. When I called the weather service to report it—I am a weather observer for the NOAA—I called this unusual weather event the same thing my son had called it: a snunderstorm. I have since learned that the proper term for this is a snow thunderstorm. I think I like snunderstorm better.

Walking in the snow
A few years ago, we had snow so deep that it was impossible to take a step without sinking down into the fluffy whiteness covering the ground. I didn’t sink in the snow all the way up to my knees, but it came close. Anyway, walking in this type of snow is called post-holing. If you’ve ever put up a fence or helped to put one up, you’ll understand perfectly where that term came from.

What do cats and geese have to do with winter?
A light fall of snow is also called a cat’s track because there has been just enough snow to track a cat. Since I have three cats that live inside but still go outdoors, I like this way of describing snow.

cat tracks in snow, flickr

Goose down is a light fall of snow. Big fluffy flakes of snow can be called goosefeathers.

The old woman is picking her geese and Aunt Dinah’s picking her geese are two idioms that means it’s snowing.

Writing
The way people talk about snow and ice has a lot to do with where you live. Each of the above words and idioms is prevalent in different parts of the country. When you write a story that has snowstorms or ice in it, look up what words are used for the particular area where your story takes place.

Using one or more of the terms or idioms from the above article, or ones that you have heard yourself, write a story using them.

Make up some new words that describe snow and/or ice.

Recommended Article: Mysterious Hole in Snow Picture Writing Prompts

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