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Es·ki·mo (ĕskə-mō)
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n. pl. Eskimoor Es·ki·mos
1. A member of any of a group of peoples inhabiting the Arctic coastal regions of North America and parts of Greenland and northeast Siberia. See Usage Note at Native American.
2. Any of the languages of the Eskimo peoples.

[French Esquimaux, possibly from Spanish esquimao, esquimal, from Montagnais ayashkimew, Micmac.]

Eski·moan adj.

Usage Note: Eskimo has been criticized as an offensive term, and many Americans either avoid it or feel uncomfortable using it. The claim that Eskimo is offensive is often supported by citing a popular etymology tracing its origin to an Abenaki word meaning “eaters of raw meat.” Modern linguists speculate that Eskimo may actually derive from a Montagnais word referring to the manner of lacing a snowshoe, but the matter remains undecided, and meanwhile many English speakers have learned to perceive Eskimo as a derogatory term invented by outsiders in scornful reference to their neighbors' eating habits. In Canada, where Eskimo is especially frowned on, the only acceptable term is Inuit, and many Americans have generally come to prefer this name too, knowing it to be a term of ethnic pride. But Inuit is a more specific term than Eskimo, properly applying to the traditionally Inuit-speaking peoples of Arctic Canada and parts of Greenland. In southwest Alaska and Arctic Siberia, where Inuit is not spoken, the comparable term is Yupik, which has not gained as wide a currency in English as Inuit. Use of these more specific terms is generally preferable when speaking of the appropriate ethnic group. For lack of a universally accepted general term, Eskimo is still often used in the United States for speaking of the Yupik and Inuit peoples collectively. See Usage Note at Inuit.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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