Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What is a Skiff of Snow?

When you wake up in the morning and look out at the rooftops...this is a "skiff" of snow.

Just a "skiff" on the chair

.....and in the garden

And finally what every Canadian dreads, is waking up to find a "skiff" on their car!

This is a term that was used widely where I grew up in the Ottawa valley. Someone from Kansas wondered what a skiff was. Helen and I are wondering if this was regional lingo. Have you ever heard of "A Skiff of Snow"?


  1. Nope and where I grew up (in western NY) there was no such thing...it was either not snowing or there was a blizzzzzzard. Your skiff was one early moment in 'it started snowing' but it never stopped long enough to have a name.

  2. Just for the record...Jeff Hutchison on CTV has been known to use the term skiff during his weather report. I have always felt I had some sort of connection with Jeff and now I am wondering, could he possibly be from the valley???

  3. From the Oxford English Dictionary ...

    skiff, sb.2 Chiefly Sc. f. skiff v.2

    1. A slight gust of wind or shower of rain, etc. Also, a light flurry or cover of snow.

    1819 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd (1827) 56 Whan skiffs o' wind blaw aff the brae.

    1870 in Public Opinion 23 July 110 An occasional skiff with the syringe, to keep the foliage free from dust.

    1895 N.B. Daily Mail 20 June 4 Notwithstanding a slight skiff of rain.

    1928 Dialect Notes VI. 88 Skiff or skift as applied to snow..means a thin coating.

    1959 E. Collier Three against Wilderness xix. 193, I saw the track in a skiff of snow, half a mile from the cabin.

    1966 M. & O; Murie Wapiti Wilderness iv. 44 We were glad enough to have a skiff of snow, it made study and counting of tracks so much easier.

    1975 Budget (Sugarcreek, Ohio) 20 Mar. 10/5 The weather..has been colder with skiffs of snow here and there.

  4. sure.........that was what I was going to say!!!
    boy....that really cheeses me off!!

  5. Well, I guess since it's in the dictionary it has nothing to do with the Ottawa Valley. Isn't it interesting the The Professor had to look it up. Guess that's why he's a Professor and Helen and I are the linguists :)

  6. Ah yes, but the word skiff no doubt originated in the Ottawa Valley, the home of many a great linguist!

  7. I grew up in Montreal and we said it all the time. Everybody knows what a 'skiff' of anything is....don't they?

  8. I was born and raised in Sudbury and I never heard the word but then we never had a slight covering of snow either. When it snows there, it snows!

  9. Hmm, never heard that term growing up in west TX, where we would get snow and ice storms. Well, we learn something new every day, do we not?


  10. Funny, I was looking up whether or not "a skiff of snow" was an out-west things. We used is all the time growing up in Montana, but New Yorkers don't know what we're talking about. "Oh, you mean a dusting...." :D