Es·​ki·​mo | \ ˈe-skə-ˌmō How to pronounce Eskimo (audio) \

Definition of Eskimo

1 plural Eskimo or Eskimos, now sometimes offensive, see usage paragraph below : a member of a group of indigenous peoples of southwestern and northern Alaska, arctic Canada, Greenland, and eastern Siberia
2 : any of the languages (such as Yupik and Inuit) of the Eskimo peoples — see also eskimo-aleut — compare inuit, inupiat, yupik

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Other Words from Eskimo

Eskimoan \ ˌe-​skə-​ˈmō-​ən How to pronounce Eskimoan (audio) \ adjective

Usage Discussion of Eskimo

Eskimo is a word that presents challenges for anyone who is concerned about avoiding the use of offensive language. Its perceived offensiveness stems partly from a now-discredited belief that it was originally a pejorative term meaning "eater of raw flesh," but perhaps more significantly from its being a word imposed on aboriginal peoples by outsiders. It has long been considered a word to be avoided in Canada, where the native people refer to themselves as Inuit, a word that means "people" in their language. But not all the native people who are referred to as Eskimos (such as the Yupik people of southwestern Alaska and eastern Siberia) are Inuit. Eskimo has no exact synonym; it has a general meaning that encompasses a number of indigenous peoples, and it continues for now in widespread use in many parts of the English-speaking world.

First Known Use of Eskimo

1584, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for Eskimo

obsolete Esquimawe, probably from Spanish esquimao, from Montagnais (Algonquian language of eastern Canada) aiachkime8 Micmac, Eskimo; probably akin to modern Montagnais assime·w she laces a snowshoe, Ojibwa aškime·

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The first known use of Eskimo was in 1584

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Cite this Entry

“Eskimo.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for Eskimo


Es·​ki·​mo | \ ˈe-skə-ˌmō How to pronounce Eskimo (audio) \
plural Eskimos

Kids Definition of Eskimo

sometimes offensive
: a member of a group of peoples of Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and eastern Siberia
Hint: In the past, this word was not considered offensive. Some people, however, now prefer Inuit.

More from Merriam-Webster on Eskimo

Nglish: Translation of Eskimo for Spanish Speakers

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