1850–55; < German (Swiss), noun use of firn last year's, old; cognate with Old English fyrn former, ancient, Gothic fairneis; akin to Old Norse forn ancient. See before Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
firn (fɪən)
another name for névé
[C19: from German (Swiss dialect) firn of the previous year, from Old High German firni old]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

"consolidated snow, the raw material of glaciers," 1853, lit. "last year's snow, névé," from Ger. Firn, from Swiss dial. firn "of last year," from M.H.G. virne "old," from O.H.G. firni, rel. to O.E. fyrn "old," Goth. fairns "of last year," from P.Gmc. *fur-/*for- (see
first). The only Eng. relic of a useful word meaning "of last year" that was widespread in I.E. languages, cf. Lith. pernai "last year," Gk. perysi "a year ago, last year," Skt. parut "of last year."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
firn   (fîrn)  Pronunciation Key 
Granular, partially consolidated snow that has passed through one summer melt season but is not yet glacial ice. Firn becomes glacial ice once it has become impermeable to liquid water.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
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Encyclopedia Britannica


partially compacted granular snow that is the intermediate stage between snow and glacial ice. Firn is found under the snow that accumulates at the head of a glacier. It is formed under the pressure of overlying snow by the processes of compaction, recrystallization, localized melting, and the crushing of individual snowflakes. This process is thought to take a period of about one year. Annual layers of firn may often be detected by thin films of dust or ash that accumulate on the surface during each summer.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The rate of air mixing by diffusion in the firn decreases as the density increases and the open porosity decreases with depth.
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