Word Origin & History
O.E. snaw "snow," from P.Gmc. *snaiwaz (cf. O.S., O.H.G. sneo, O.Fris., M.L.G. sne, M.Du. snee, Du. sneeuw, Ger. Schnee, O.N. snjor, Goth. snaiws "snow"), from PIE *sniegwh-/*snoigwho- (cf. Gk. nipha, L. nix (gen. nivis), O.Ir. snechta, Welsh nyf, Lith. sniegas, O.Prus. snaygis, O.C.S. snegu, Rus. snieg',
Slovak sneh "snow"). The cognate in Skt., snihyati, came to mean "he gets wet." As slang for "cocaine" it is attested from 1914. Snowshoe first recorded 1674; snowflake is 1734; snowplow is from 1792, first mentioned in a New Hampshire context; snowman is from 1827; snowmobile first attested 1931, in ref. to Admiral Byrd's expedition.
c.1300, replacing O.E. sniwan, which would have yielded modern snew (which existed as a parallel form until 17c. and, in Yorkshire, even later), from the root of snow
"Also þikke as snow þat snew,
Or al so hail þat stormes blew."
[Robert Mannyng of Brunne, transl. Wace's "Chronicle," c.1330]
The figurative sense of "overwhelm" is 1880, Amer.Eng., in phrase to snow (someone) under. Snow job "strong, persistent persuasion in a dubious cause" is World War II armed forces slang, probably from the same metaphoric image.