Scots have 421 words for snow -- that's more than the Inuit

A solitary car makes its way along the snowbound M8 motorway linking Glasgow and Edinburgh

Story highlights

  • Linguists in Scotland are compiling a thesaurus of Scots words and phrases
  • They have identified 421 Scots words for snow, including "feefle" and "flindrikin," "sneesl" and "skelf"
  • The lexicographers' next task will be to list all the Scots words for rain -- they have more than 400 so far

(CNN)Legend has it that the Eskimo and Inuit have dozens of words for snow, but it seems the Scots may have outdone them, with 421 ways of naming the white stuff, from "sneesl" to "skelf."

Lexicographers at the University of Glasgow, who are compiling an online thesaurus of Scots words, say they have tracked down hundreds of quirky, lesser-known ways of describing wintry weather.
"Snaw-pouther" is fine, driving snow, and "spitters" are small drops or flakes of wind-driven rain or snow. A "skelf" is a large snowflake, and "sneesl" means to begin to rain or snow.
"Feefle" means to swirl, like snow around a corner, while "feuchter" means to fall lightly, or come down in odd flakes, and a "flindrikin" is a slight snow-shower.
"Weather has been a vital part of people's lives in Scotland for centuries," explained Susan Rennie, Lecturer in English and Scots Language at the University of Glasgow.
"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."
Roibeard O Maolalaigh, head of the university's College of Arts, said he hoped the thesaurus would "provide new insights into the riches and very essence of Scots as a language."
The team admits there could be more terms for snow that they haven't yet logged.
"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," said Rennie.
And it's not just snow that they have in their lexicographical sights -- next they're tackling rain.