Definition of Eskimo in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɛskɪməʊ/

noun (plural same or Eskimos)

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.
Example sentences
  • Excluding the descendants of the native-born American Indians, Eskimos, and Hawaiians, every American is a descendent of immigrants.
  • Canoeing is one of the oldest forms of transport, used most notably by Eskimos and Native Americans, and is an ideal way to spend a recreational day on the river or sea.
  • For three years he managed a store for the Hudson's Bay Company in the Arctic Circle among the Inuit Eskimos and did not return to visit Britain until 1976.
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.
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • The truth about snow words in the Eskimo languages simply doesn't matter.
  • My list is somewhat more reliable than that unchecked serial exaggeration of Eskimo snow vocabulary you hear so much about.


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 (usage). 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 husky2).

  • The traditional word for the indigenous people inhabiting northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and eastern Siberia is Eskimo. The word is from Native American language Algonquian, and may have originally meant ‘people speaking a different language’. It was formerly thought that the original meaning was ‘person who eats raw meat’ and because this was seen as insulting, the word is now avoided by many. The peoples inhabiting the regions from the Canadian Arctic to western Greenland prefer to call themselves Inuit, first recorded in English in the mid 18th century and the plural of inuk ‘person’. There are comparatively few words in English from the Inuit language. Kayak, which came into English in the 18th century, is one of them, and igloo (mid 19th century) from iglu ‘house’, is the most notable other.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: Es¦kimo

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