Since, unusually, there is snow lying on the ground as I write, after the heaviest snowfall for eighteen years, I thought I would consider the urban legend of the number of Eskimo words for snow, in other words, the popularly held belief that Eskimos have several (some sources even say several hundred) words for snow because snow plays such a huge part in their culture.
Linguist Geoffrey Pullum has written a very readable essay entitled The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax in which he says that the Eskimos don't have many words for snow at all, and cites an old dictionary of the West Greenlandic language which has only two relevant roots, one meaning 'snow in the air' and the other 'snow on the ground'.
Another problem with the myth is that it is difficult to know what people mean when they say 'Eskimo' words since there are several languages in the Eskimo group, which, of course, would increase the total number of words for snow. Moreover, these languages are able to combine words to form new words so a phrase in English, such as 'glistening snow', would be one word in an Eskimo language, which would mean that there could, in theory, be an almost infinite number of unique words having something to do with snow.
Snow does not play a major role in British culture - the country has shut down more or less over the last two days because of the weather, and various local government representatives have justified their policy of having no strategy to deal with sudden bad weather by saying it is such a rare event that it's not worth spending money on snow ploughs etc. So, does that mean that we have few words for snow? The New Oxford Thesaurus of English has these synonyms: snowflakes, flakes, snowdrift, snowfield, snowpack, snowfall, snowstorm, blizzard, sleet, hail, soft hail, avalanche and snowslide, plus these more technical terms in a special box describing types and conditions of snow: breakable crust, champagne powder, corn snow, crud, crust, firn, graupel, mashed potato, névé, powder, slush, snow-broth, snow-ice, spring snow, wind pack and windslab. So, in fact, it turns out that there are probably more words for snow in English than in Eskimo!
If the number of words for a particular phenomenon in a language is related to the prevalence of that phenomenon in the society, as the purveyors of the 'Eskimo words for snow' myth seem to believe, then it's worth looking at what characteristics in English have lots of synonyms. There are about 30 synonyms of 'intelligent', but over 100 synonyms of 'stupid'!