Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Is it ok to use the word Eskimo?

The widespread group of peoples called Eskimo inhabits the Arctic from Greenland to Eastern Siberia. The term came into English via the Algonquians from the Danish term Eskimo, which can be traced back to Abnaki (Abenaki) askimo 'eaters of raw flesh'. Because of the etymology, there is now some sensitivity to the use of the term Eskimo and many use Inuit (or Innuit) instead. Inuit comes from the Inupik Eskimo language and means simply 'people' (it is the plural of inuk 'man'). However, Inuit cannot substitute for Eskimo in all cases, being restricted in usage to the Inuit-speaking peoples of Arctic Canada and parts of Greenland. In Alaska and Arctic Siberia, where Inuit is not spoken, the comparable terms are Inupiaq and Yupik. So, the only inclusive term for these peoples as a whole is Eskimo. They speak dialects of the same language, Eskimo, which is a major branch of the Eskimo-Aleut family of languages. The etymology of Eskimo is disputed by some, who say it may derive from a Montagnais word referring to the manner of lacing a snowshoe. Until more is known about the etymology, many English speakers have learned to perceive Eskimo as a derogatory term.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
About PRIVACY POLICY Terms Careers Advertise with Us Contact Us Our Blog Suggest a Word Help