Origin of the word "blizzard"

Dear Tom,
Do you happen to know the derivation of “blizzard”?

Robert Gow
Dear Robert,
It’s a relatively recent word, and it originated in the United States or England. By the early 1800s in this country, blizzard meant a cannon shot, a rapid volley of musket fire or a severe blow. Frontiersman Davey Crockett (1786-1836) was described as “speaking a blizzard” (a verbal blast) during a dinner speech and, on another occasion, taking a blizzard (a volley of shots) at a deer.
At about the same time in the English Midlands, blizzer referred to a severe wind and snow storm.
The first documented published uses of blizzard appeared in a few newspapers in Iowa in March and April of 1870 to describe a fierce winter storm in that area. Thereafter, blizzard came to be recognized as descriptive of a severe, wind-driven snowstorm.

0 thoughts on “Origin of the word "blizzard"

  1. The term blizzard was first used in Estherville, Ia in the late 1800′s to describe a violent snowstorm…following is an article from the local newspaper
    What do you call a big winter storm?
    Blizzard
    POSTED: December 10, 2008 Save
    Fact Box
    n In honor of this newspaper’s 140th birthday and the first major snowstorm of the season, a two-part series titled “How an English Surname, Blizzard, Became a Name for a Ferocious Snow and Windstorm” will be published beginning Thursday. The article was written by Estherville historian Ruth Hackett.
    Editor’s note: The following story is taken from the Daily News Centennial edition published Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1968. The Centennial edition celebrated publication the first newspaper in Emmet County-the Norther Vindicator published on Dec. 14, 1868 by Eaton Northrop and O.C. Bates.
    One of Estherville’s claims to fame is the origin of the word “Blizzard” as applied to a severe snow storm.
    According to Sir William Craigie, editor of a dictionary of American slang, “an Estherville, Iowa, editor used the word in April 1871 to describe a heavy, blinding snowstorm which blotted the landscape from view.”
    The editor was O.C. Bates of the Northern Vindicator, who is widely credited with giving new meaning to the word blizzard, previous used to describe a violent altercation or quarrel.
    Neighboring editors picked up the word and then, during the severe winter of 1880-1881, blizzard was cemented into the American language and has been in use since to describe violent snowstorms.
    Editor Bates undoubtedly found the need for a new, descriptive word for the kind of snowstorms that swept across the open prairie, taking a toll of lives as travelers became lost in the storm.
    Prairie blizzards were formidable foes of the early pioneers equaled in fury only by the raging prairie fires that consumed miles of dry grassland each autumn.
    Planting of groves to reduce the open sweep of wind, in time reduced the fury of blizzards, but they are by no mean a phenomenon of the past. Lives are still lost and the word “blizzard” is still very much alive in the modern vocabulary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s