Definition of Eskimo in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈeskəˌmō/

noun (plural same or Eskimos)

1often (especially in Canada & Greenland) offensive A member of an indigenous people inhabiting northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and eastern Siberia, traditionally living by hunting (especially of seals) and by fishing.
2Either of the two main languages of the Eskimo people (Inuit and Yupik), forming 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.


1 In recent years, Eskimo has come to be regarded as offensive because of one of its possible etymologies (Abnaki askimo ‘eater of raw meat’), but this descriptive name is accurate since Eskimos traditionally derived their vitamins from eating raw meat. This dictionary gives another possible etymology above, but the etymological problem is still unresolved. 2 The peoples inhabiting the regions from northwestern Canada to western Greenland call themselves Inuit (see Inuit (usage)), but in the US, Eskimo is the only term that can be properly applied to all of the peoples as a whole, and it is still widely used in anthropological and archaeological contexts. The broader term Native American is sometimes used to refer to Eskimo and Aleut peoples. See Native American (usage).


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

Syllabification: Es·ki·mo

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