As the temperatures drop and the dark nights get longer, we all need a thing or two to bring a smile to our faces, and you can always rely on whimsical word translations to do just that. So, we’ve sought out four of our favourite winter words and shared their origins and most interesting translation facts.
Translations of winter
The word ‘winter’ has several possible origins. Many suggest it comes from the old Germanic word, wintru, which translates as ‘the fourth and coldest season of the year.’ There are also links to the Proto-Indo-European root wed, which means ‘water or wet.’ Makes sense for those of us experiencing winter in the UK!
The reason there are several explanations for the origin of winter is that the word has been used for centuries. For example, back in Anglo-Saxon times, they would use the number of winters to measure the years that passed.
The translation of the word winter into other languages sees many similarities. The Danes, Norwegians, and Swedish refer to vinter, while the Germans spell winter like the English but pronounce it like their Scandinavian neighbours.
How many types of snow do you know?
The word ‘snow’ has evolved from the Old English word snaw, which was also used to describe snowfall and snowstorms. The origins of this winter word also link back to the Proto-Germanic word snaiwaz, which came from the Proto-Indo-European root sniegwh.
The word snow has more variety and distinction in some countries than others. For example, there are reportedly 25 translations of snow in Swedish and 46 in Icelandic! However, curiously, it is the Scots that have the most translations for snow – with over 400! For example, feefle refers to swirling snow, while the word spitters translates as small flakes of wind-driven snow.
The heavenly translations of ski
If you’re dreaming of time skiing on the glistening slopes, you may be interested to discover this word’s origins. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has Scandinavian roots, with the word ‘ski’ translating back to the Old Norse word skið, meaning ‘long snowshoe’ or ‘split piece of wood.’
Skiing has an extensive history that dates back over 5,000 years when Norse farmers and warriors used this method to get around. Even the Norse god Ullr and goddess Skaði were believed to have hunted on skis!
However, this transport concept could be even older, as 10,000-year-old paintings have been found in Xinjiang province of China that suggest the use of skis.
Cold as ice cream
The word ‘cold’ actually has delightful links to ice cream, or gelato, to be more specific. Cold, gelato and glacier can all be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root gel. Early Europeans then used this root when referring to chilly weather.
As with numerous words, you can spot many similarities when translating the word cold into other languages. In German, cold is kalt, and in Danish, it’s kold.
If you love those chilly winter days when the sky is bright blue, the Romanian language has a specific word for these – Soare cu dinţi. Meanwhile, in English, we have a rarely used word that similarly translates as the warmth of winter sunshine – apricity. However, if the cold is all too much for you and you are extremely sensitive to wintery temperatures, in Spanish, you would be described as being friolero.