Scottish word of the week: Snell

Travelling the streets can be hard when faced with snell (piercingly cold) winds and snow. Picture: TSPL
Travelling the streets can be hard when faced with snell (piercingly cold) winds and snow. Picture: TSPL
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THE chances are over the next few days, and indeed coming weeks, you’ll find yourself facing some snell (piercingly cold) weather.

The expression snell is mainly used to refer to the most biting of weather, the type that you can feel right down to the bone.

It is most commonly used when referring to the wind, and is thought to be a derivative of the old English word for quick or sharp, and the German word schnell, an adjective or adverb also meaning quick or swift.

It can also apply to a person, someone who is snell would be stern and severe, while a snell remark may be considered sniping and caustic.


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Scottish words for the weather might not number as many as the Inuit and native tribes of North America’s words might do for snow, but there are certainly more than a few.

Unsurprisingly, the most numerous of them tend to refer to differing types of rain, such as smirr (a light rain), gandiegow (heavy rain) and sump (a great downpour).

However, a select few are more than apt for the coming month of January, when Scotland tends to be at it’s coldest.

This one month tends to see the worst of the snell weather. It’s the time of the year when you’re most likely to hear the expression “It’s fair jeelit (freezing) outside” as travellers come inside to make themselves warm and to escape the wreaths (drifts of snow).

So be sure to wrap up when heading outside over the next few months so that you don’t end up chittering (shivering) in the snell winds.


Scottish words for the Christmas season

Scottish festive tradition: Burning the Cailleach


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