Definition of Eskimo in English:



  • 1A member of an indigenous people inhabiting northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and eastern Siberia, and traditionally living by hunting seals and other Arctic animals and birds and by fishing.

  • 2[mass noun] Either of the two main languages of the Eskimo people (Inuit and Yupik), comprising a major division of the Eskimo-Aleut family.

    • ‘Tony Woodbury reports that in the village of Chevak, Alaska, in 1978, almost everyone spoke Chup'ik, a dialect of Yup'ik Eskimo; by 1996 it had died out among schoolchildren.’
    • ‘Everybody kept on saying, ‘come see, little kids speaking Eskimo!’
    • ‘To take what is the most frequently mentioned case, we can note the existence of several words in Eskimo to refer to ‘snow’ compared to only one in English.’
    • ‘The Greenlandic language is closely related to Labrador Eskimo but has taken many of its card-playing terms from Danish.’
    • ‘When people try to make a list with snow words in Eskimo, they often include words for ice.’


  • Relating to the Eskimos or their languages.

    • ‘In fact, there aren't all that many Eskimo words for snow.’
    • ‘While the igloo remains important, it is the alternation of summer and winter housing, or at least summer/winter entrances to houses that characterizes Eskimo buildings.’
    • ‘Speaking on the intake of breath is something that I think is only common in Ireland, though I have been told that it does exist in Eskimo speech too.’
    • ‘All of these were transcribed in the original language of the Eskimo storytellers and then translated with the help of Eskimos who also spoke English.’
    • ‘My list is somewhat more reliable than that unchecked serial exaggeration of Eskimo snow vocabulary you hear so much about.’
    • ‘The whole Eskimo (Yup'ik-Inuit) family is only about two thousand years old.’
    • ‘The truth about snow words in the Eskimo languages simply doesn't matter.’
    • ‘A generation ago, by far and away the most common cause of death among Eskimo men was drowning.’
    • ‘Nearly every section of the world suffered, the United States, Central and South America, Europe, Asia and even remote Eskimo villages.’
    • ‘Sea ice normally protects Eskimo villages from the ravages of winter storms.’
    • ‘What was intended to be a six-week project turned into a six-month study of Eskimo archaeology and anthropology.’


In recent years the word Eskimo has come to be regarded as offensive (partly through the associations of the now discredited etymology ‘one who eats raw flesh’). The peoples inhabiting the regions from the central Canadian Arctic to western Greenland prefer to call themselves Inuit: see Inuit. The term Eskimo, however, continues to be the only term which can be properly understood as applying to the people as a whole and is still widely used in anthropological and archaeological contexts


Via French Esquimaux, possibly from Spanish esquimao, esquimal, from Montagnais ayas̆kimew person who laces a snowshoe, probably applied first to the Micmac and later to the Eskimo (see husky).