Winter Words


Well my drunken landlord came over today speaking in his standard exaggerated way about the weather, making it seem like he had just mushed his way across the frozen tundra to get to my apartment. His hyperbole notwithstanding, he did remind me that it would be good to go ahead and make a short list of winter words in Romanian.

Some of you might remember my original post on the word lapovita, which is covered extensively at the link. However this paragraph is important:

Similarly, in Romanian the verb ninge (from the Latin, see nieve in Spanish and neve in Italian) only refers to snow when it is falling from the sky.

As soon as it lands on the ground however, in Romanian it becomes zapada (from the Slavic).

Therefore: A nins si zapada acopera orasul is how you say “It snowed and the snow covers the city”.

Indeed. There’s also a related verb deszapezi, a little tricky to to say for some with the s followed by a z, but if you parse it is literally means to “un-snow” something. More conventionally in English it would be “to remove snow” from something, especially referring to streets.

Note: Romanians say streets are “cleaned” (curat) of snow to mean that the snow has been shoveled, swept or otherwise removed from something.

The word my landlord used today to trigger this post was namete, quite often pluralized as nameti, which apparently comes directly from Bulgarian and just means “a heck of a lot of snow” or “snow drifts” perhaps.

Note: this word namete only refers to snow that’s on the ground, not snow as it’s falling.

Not to get too confusing but there’s also a Latin word ninsoare which is best translated as “snowfall”. Again, this refers to when it is in the air and not when it is on the ground.

Another useful word to know is viscol, which refers again only to snow when it is in the air. In this case the word is best translated as either “snow storm” or sometimes “blizzard”, meaning that it is snowing heavily and usually the wind is also blowing intensely.

Another word that’s apt for this time of year is ger (jer), which is related to the archaic English word gelid but has no true modern translation. It just means “super flipping cold”, as indeed it has been these last few days ;) Because it is an adjective, it is modified according to gender and number.

Another adjective I’ve seen a lot this week is naprasnic, which I’m not quite sure how to translate. When referring to the weather it kind of means both “surprising” and “sudden” as well as “ferocious” or “savage”. It’s much more intense than saying (cold) “snap” but that’s about as close as you’re going to get in English.

And last but not least there’s the English word icicle, which is a little hard to translate pithily into Romanian.

One is “sloi de gheata”, literally meaning something along the lines of a “floating piece of ice”. Think of spring thaws when chunks of ice fall into a river and float and are visible, that’s probably the truest definition of sloi however it’s used (at least in Cluj) for your “ordinary” icicle that’s hanging off the roof.

Likewise other people used the word turtur (tsoor-tsoor), which DEX helpfully defines as “a sloi de gheata in an elongated form with a sharp tip that forms from flowing water that freezes”. It is related somewhat to a word for “fringe”, which kind of makes sense if you look a roof gutter that has a long row of icicles hanging down from it.

Whatever words you use, STAY WARM!

UPDATE: Thanks to several people, I realized I screwed up. Ger is a noun which does mean “super cold”. Geros however is the related adjective and IS modified by number and gender. Thanks for all of those of you who wrote in to me to correct my mistake :)

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