How Many Words for Snow are there in Russian?


Snow has always been an essential part of the lives of the people that inhabit the Northern part of Russia. This inevitably reflected on the language. So, how many words for snow are there in the Russian language?

There are at least 100 words for snow in the Russian language. Actually, there are much more if we take into account words from local dialects of different peoples of the country or add cognates (words with one stem).

I didn’t manage to find any serious scientific research on the subject, so the number I outlined earlier is based on the article of one enthusiast who gathered all the words for snow and gave them definition. Further, you’ll see some of the names for snow that are commonly used throughout the whole territory of Russia but could be absent in other languages.

What is the Exact Number of Words for Snow in Russian?

The amount of Russian words for snow is difficult to count as we first need to determine what exactly do we count: words for winter fall-outs, words for snow on the ground, and do we include ice and its forms on this list?

Another problem is to determine what words do we consider Russian: do we also count words of the national minorities and local dialects? And it’s essential, as the Northern people who maintain a traditional way of life to have a much broader snow vocabulary than an average Russian. If we add, for instance, words of Russian Eskimos, the list would be endless.

Another question is, should we count words that are known on one territory and not used on another? For example, people in Yakutia (North-East of Russia) have a unique naming for thick layers of ice on the bottom of rivers (tarin – тарын). People in the West of Russia have hardly heard of it.

And the last but not the least, do we count cognates (related words with a similar stem)? In Russian, you can take one stem, let’s say – snjeg, and form hundreds of new ones just by adding suffixes and prefixes. Snowy, snow-fall, and snow break are words with a similar root. So, will they take place on our list or not?

By “words for snow,” I mean all snow-related words, which means small soft white pieces of frozen water that fall from the sky in cold weather or when it is lying on the ground. So, such words as “a blizzard,” “a snowbank,” and different forms of ice will also fall into this group.

Common Words for Snow in Russian

The general word for snow in Russian is snjeg (снег), but in the list below you will find some other common words from the Russian language used to describe this weather phenomenon from different sides.

  • Snezhnaya krupa – Снежная крупа (snow grain) – This type of snow looks like non-transparent grains. It’s heavy and opposite to light, fluffy fluttering snowflakes. They are small, sharp, and unpleasantly bump into your face and get under your collar.
  • Nast – Наст – is a frozen snow crust that covers a pillow of fluffy and powdery snow. A perfect type of snow for skiing.
  • Slyakot’ – Slyakot’ – wet snow on the ground mixed with mud.
  • Porosha – Пороша – pure snow driven on the ground. The snow that has been falling at night but stopped by the morning.
  • Phlyak – Пухляк – Extremely fluffy snow cover, which is considered exellent for snowboarding and downhill skiing. But you should be very careful as you can easily get stuck in it.
  • Tselyak – Целяк – snow that hasn’t been touched by anybody and doesn’t have any trails or dents.
  • Snezhnaya kasha – Снежная каша (snow porridge) – this type of snow emerges when the weather becomes warmer and fluffy snowflakes begin sticking to each other and create crystals of ice, which mix with snow.
  • Inej – Иней – frost that covers trees and cars in the morning.

You’ve learned about some types of snow that lay on the ground. Now let’s see what words for falling snow or blizzard we can find in Russian. (тут надо ключевую фразу в том или ином виде упомянуть)

Russian Word for Snowflake

The most general word for a snowflake in Russian is snezhinka – снежинка and there are no close synonyms or variations for this word.

Russian Words for Blizzard

The most general word for a blizzard in Russian is Metel’ – Метель, but some other words specify this type of weather condition.

  • Pozjomka – Позёмка – snow drifting close to the ground. This is not the process of new snow falling, but when snow from the ground is driven from one place to another. Pozjomka happens when the wind is slow, and it doesn’t worsen visibility conditions.
  • Vjuga – Вьюга – is a ground blizzard, when the snow is taken from the ground and spinning.
  • Buran / Purga – Буран / Пурга – is a snowstorm that happens mostly in prairies or wide-open spaces. It includes not only snowfall but when the wind also takes the snow high up from the ground. The word Buran comes from the Tatarian language that is spread in the South of Russia, and Purga was adopted from the Northern Finnish. This type of snowstorm can be hazardous. Below, you can see a great example of buran.

Russian Words for Ice

The word for ice in Russian is lyod – лёд. Though there are some special kinds of ice the Russian language identifies.

  • Gololyod – Гололёд – extremely slippery type of ice, which is often foully hidden under a thin layer of snow. Gololyod is the reason for many broken arms and legs. 
  • Gololeditsa – Гололедица – another very slippery type of ice. Unlike its neighbor (above), which is created due to freezing water, gololeditsa appears when layers of snow are compacted into a smooth white glittering surface. You can often see it on the roads.
  • Naled’ – Надледь – is a piece of annoying ice that covers your car in the morning, and that’s difficult to scrape off. It looks like an icy capsule, and it takes time to melt it.

Russian Words for Frost

The Russian word for frost is moroz – мороз. Generally, moroz is the weather when the temperature falls below zero. However, it’s true only for those who live in the South. To me, moroz starts somewhere below -20C (-13F). A warmer temperature (-15C, 5F) is called morozets or a small, insignificant frost. People who live in Norilsk and experience frosts up to -40C (-40F) would consider my freezing normal or even warm winter weather. 

As for other words for frost, here are some mostly colloquial synonyms:

  • Holod sobachij – Холод собачий (dog’s cold) – extremely cold weather that gets frozen to the marrow.
  • Dubak – Дубак – is used to talk about icy cold weather, or when it’s cold inside. 
  • Holodriga – Холодрыга – the same as dubak.

In the video below, you can see an ordinary day in Oymyakon at -65C (-85F) below zero, that I would call this type of frost Holod sobachij (dog’s cold), but a man in the video doesn’t even wear gloves.

Conclusion

I’m always curious about words from different languages that represent new terms or don’t have a direct equivalent in other languages. Russian words for snow are a curiously great example of it.

Are there any snow or other weather-words in your language that you can’t translate into Russian, or other languages with one word or without further explanation of what it is? Share in comments below!

Anastasia Korol

Anastasia Korol is an enthusiastic Russian language tutor. She gives effective, goal-oriented lessons to students all over the world. Thousands of people have already followed her Instagram.

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