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[es-kuh-moh] /ˈɛs kəˌmoʊ/
noun, plural Eskimos (especially collectively) Eskimo for 1.
a member of an indigenous people of Greenland, northern Canada, Alaska, and northeastern Siberia, characterized by short, stocky build and light-brown complexion.
either of two related languages spoken by the Eskimos, one in Greenland, Canada, and northern Alaska, the other in southern Alaska and Siberia.
Compare Inuit, Yupik.
Origin of Eskimo
1575-85; < earlier Esqimawe(s), apparently via French (of 16th-century Basque fishermen) < Spanish esquimao(s) < Montagnais (French spelling) aiachkimeou- a name for the Micmac, extended or transferred to the Labrador Eskimo among the eastern Montagnais; perhaps literally, snowshoe-netter (compare Ojibwa aškime· to net snowshoes); cf. husky3
Related forms
Eskimoan, adjective
[es-kuh-moid] /ˈɛs kəˌmɔɪd/ (Show IPA),
pro-Eskimo, adjective, noun, plural pro-Eskimos, pro-Eskimo.
Usage note
The name Inuit, by which the native people of the Arctic from northern Alaska to western Greenland call themselves, has largely supplanted Eskimo in Canada and is used officially by the Canadian government. Many Inuit consider Eskimo derogatory, in part because the word was, erroneously, long thought to mean literally “eater of raw meat.” Inuit has also come to be used in a wider sense, to name all people traditionally called Eskimo, regardless of local self-designations. Nonetheless, Eskimo continues in use in all parts of the world, especially in historical and archaeological contexts and in reference to the people as a cultural and linguistic unity. The term Native American is sometimes used to include Eskimo and Aleut peoples. See also Indian. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for eskimos
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But it is as an interpreter of native life, of the ways and customs of the eskimos, that he has done his greatest work.

  • If that is true, he found an empty land, and it was eskimos that Thorfinn saw in Wineland.

    Viking Tales Jennie Hall
  • Whenever he did so one or the other, or both of the eskimos were gazing stolidly at him.

    The Hound From The North Ridgwell Cullum
  • It will never seem much like Christmas to us eskimos, at eighty-five in the shade.

    The Prairie Mother Arthur Stringer
  • As they came closer Curlie became convinced that they were Indians and not eskimos as he had supposed them to be.

    On the Yukon Trail Roy J. Snell
  • The eskimos are great Pot-latchers That means givers to each other.

    Black Beaver James Campbell Lewis
  • He was up in the Lake Hazen region with his eskimos, and he had left them at the igloo while he looked around for game.

    The North Pole Robert E. Peary
British Dictionary definitions for eskimos


(pl) -mos, -mo. a member of a group of peoples inhabiting N Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and E Siberia, having a material culture adapted to an extremely cold climate
the language of these peoples
a family of languages that includes Eskimo and Aleut
relating to, denoting, or characteristic of the Eskimos
See also Inuit, Inuktitut
Former spelling Esquimau
Usage note
Eskimo is considered by many to be offensive, and in North America the term Inuit is usually preferred. Inuit, however, can be accurately applied only to those Aboriginal peoples inhabiting parts of Northern Canada, Alaska, and Greenland (as distinguished from those in Asia or the Aleutian Islands)
Word Origin
C18 from Algonquian Esquimawes
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for eskimos



1580s, from Danish Eskimo or Middle French Esquimaux (plural), both probably from an Algonquian word, such as Abenaki askimo (plural askimoak), Ojibwa ashkimeq, traditionally said to mean literally "eaters of raw meat," from Proto-Algonquian *ask- "raw" + *-imo "eat." Research from 1980s in linguistics of the region suggests this derivation, though widely credited there, might be inaccurate or incomplete, and the word might mean "snowshoe-netter." Cf. also Innuit. Eskimo pie "chocolate-coated ice cream bar" introduced 1921.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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eskimos in Culture

Eskimos definition

A widely dispersed group of peoples in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Siberia, who have traditionally survived primarily by hunting and fishing. Despite the isolation of Eskimo communities, the Eskimos display a strong cultural, racial, and linguistic unity. Many Eskimos, especially those in Canada, prefer the name Inuit.

Note: Most people picture isolated Eskimos living in igloos and driving dogsleds; however, contact with outsiders has resulted in adoption of permanent housing settlements, snowmobiles and motorboats, and modern hunting equipment.
Note: Christianity has replaced many traditional religious beliefs. Efforts by federal governments to incorporate Eskimo societies have included establishment of schools in Eskimo communities and opportunities to participate in the larger government and economy.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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