Snow and Ice
(Vocabulary, phrases and idioms)

    Well, it's the second week of December now and last weekend, our little town of Ena saw its first snowfall.
      Ah, snowfall - that's a good word. Snowfall is a good example of a COMPOUND NOUN. A compound noun is when 2 nouns (in this case, snow and fall) come together to form one word. There are several compound nouns connected with snow: snowman, snowball, snowline.... There are also several compound nouns connected with ice: iceberg, icebox... Sometimes compound nouns can be written as one word: iceberg; or they can be written as 2 words: ice cube. There are also several idioms which contain the words, ice and snow.
      This week, let's take a look at some examples of snow and ice words.

    Vocabulary and phrases with snow


    • You can go snowboarding with friends.
    • You can go outside and make a snowman.
    • You can make some snowballs and challenge your friends to a snowball fight.


    • Snow chains: you can put these on your car wheels to make it easier and safer to drive in the snow.
    • Snowline: Some high mountains, especially in areas like the Himalayas have snow on them for 365 days a year. The snowline is the point above which the snow never melts.
    • Snowflake: a tiny piece of snow. They have very beautiful shapes if you look at them through a microscope.
    • Snowplough: a vehicle which is used to push the snow off the roads and open them for traffic (Note: British spelling - plough; American spelling - plow).
    • Snowstorm: a storm with strong winds and heavy snow.
    • Snowdrift: a  deep pile of snow that has been made by the wind.
    • Snowfall: the amount of snow that falls in a particular place (e.g. What's the annual average snowfall in Japan?)
    • Snowbound: unable to move because of the snow. (e.g. There are more than 200 snowbound passengers sleeping in the airport).


    • The sun's just come out, so the snow should start to thaw/melt very soon.
    • It snowed this morning but it didn't settle. (i.e. It melted without staying on the ground).

    In the examples above, snow is a noun, but snow can also be used as a verb:

    • It snowed very heavily all day yesterday.

    There are also a few phrasal verbs with snow:

    • We were snowed in last weekend, so we couldn't go anywhere.
    • We tried to drive into town but the roads were snowed up, so we had to turn back.

    Vocabulary and phrases with ice

    Of course, ice is sometimes kept in the kitchen. We can eat ice-cream, put ice cubes in our drinks, and keep champagne in an ice bucket. British children also eat ice lollies; American children eat the same thing but call them popsicles.


    • The Ice Age: A historical period thousands of years ago when large parts of the earth were covered with ice.
    • Iceberg: a large mass of ice floating in the sea. The Titanic was sunk by an iceberg.
    • Icebox: (American English) an old-fashioned name for refrigerator.
    • Ice-cold: Extremely cold (e.g. It's really hot today - I'd love a nice, ice-cold beer).
    • Ice rink: the place where you can play ice hockey or go ice-skating.
    • The polar ice caps: the ice at the North and South Poles. Many people are afraid that these will melt because of global warming.


    • When the roads are covered by very thin ice which is difficult to see, we call it black ice.
    • When the roads are covered with ice and dangerous to drive on, we can say that the roads or the ice are treacherous.

    Ice and Snow - some idiomatic expressions

    Sorry. I can't go out tonight. I'm completely snowed under with work.
    (I have an incredibly large amount of work to do)

    The recent success of many young Asian women golfers has had a snowball effect on the popularity of the game. (Adapted from an article in Asia Week).
    (= the popularity of the game has become bigger, and bigger, and bigger).

    (At a party) Everyone seems a little shy tonight, so let's play a little game to break the ice.
    (= create a more friendly, relaxed atmosphere).

    I planned to finish my report this week, but three of our employees are sick, so I've had to put it on ice for the moment.
    (= leave a project unfinished, but plan to finish it at a later date).


    Fill the blanks in the following sentences with either SNOW or ICE:

    1. You ask me if I'm busy! I'm absolutely _______ed under this week!
    2. They're building a new _______ rink in the city centre.
    3. We got caught in a really heavy _______storm yesterday evening and we had to spend the night in the car.
    4. Do you believe in the Abominable _______man?
    5. Drive carefully tonight. There's a lot of black ______ on the roads.
    6. Let's go outside and have a _______ball fight.
    7. They say that if the _______caps melt, some South Sea islands will completely disappear.
    8. I always like to start each new course with an ______-breaking activity. It helps the students to relax.
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    © Robert E. Jones, 2005