How to say snow in European languages
The latest winter storm has hit the UK and it has taken the country by storm – pun quite literally intended! Transport and infrastructure has come to a standstill as the country struggles to deal with the heavy snowfall.
Shoppers have been posting on Social Media images of empty shop shelves because delivery trucks haven’t been able to make way on the roads. Commuters have been stranded on trains, buses and in cars on the motorway as the snow has clogged up the tracks and roads.
If you are a trapped commuter or been asked to work from home, this is a prime opportunity for you to brush up on your language skills and use the time you would have spent commuting on practising and working on memorizing your vocabulary.
So what better way to start than by committing to memory the word for snow in a few European languages?
Scandinavian and the Nordic countries
There is possibly no other culture and geography in the world Europeans associate more with snow than the Nordic countries. Except maybe Siberia and the polar caps!
These three are pretty easy for English speakers, especially the first two, both of which are pronounced quite similarly to English. However, the next two are quite different:
Let’s work our way from West to East, stretching from the Atlantic coast to the Black Sea.
Greek: χιόνι (chioni)
Most of these languages are related to each other. As you can see, the word for snow is all generally something around the sound /nev/. So if you don’t remember the exact word when you’re out in the Pyrenees, just try to remember that /nev/ sound.
Of course, not all of the languages in the Mediterranean are closely related to each other, like Greek, Basque and Turkish which have their own words for snow.
Romanian is a Romance language, just like Spanish and French, but its word for snow comes from a completely different root. This is because it is surrounded by Slavic languages, like Polish and Russian which have heavily influenced it.
Slavic languages and the Balkans
The Slavic languages cover a vast expanse of central, eastern and southern Europe, stretching from Stettin in the north west of Poland down to Burgas in the south east of Bulgaria and across to the outer reaches of Siberia.
So lets see what the word for snow looks like in this big collection of languages:
Belarusian: снег (sneg)
Bulgarian: сняг (snyag)
Macedonian: снег (sneg)
Russian: снег (sneg)
Serbian: снег (sneg)
Ukrainian: сніг (snih)
As you can see, with the exception of Albanian, this is just a variation on the same word again and again. The pronunciation and spelling are very similar. Although those languages written in Cyrillic might look different at first, once you transliterate them into the Latin script, you see they are remarkably similar too.
Last but not least in our list are the Germanic languages. These cover Germany, of course, but also a splattering of other countries and regions, including northern Italy where they speak German!
Yiddish: שניי (shney)
So there you have it – snow in a swath of European languages! You never know, the next time you’re driving through Europe, you might hear or see one of these words as a warning and it might save your life!
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A polyglot and international traveller. Anthony speaks 6 languages and loves sharing his passion of language learning through his writing.
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