AskDefine | Define igloo

Dictionary Definition

igloo n : an Eskimo hut; usually built of blocks (of sod or snow) in the shape of a dome [syn: iglu]

User Contributed Dictionary



Western Canadian Inuit iġlu


  1. A dome-shaped Inuit shelter, constructed of blocks cut from snow.
  2. A cavity, or excavation, made in the snow by a seal, over its breathing hole in the sea ice.


Inuit snow house

Extensive Definition

An igloo (Inuit language: iglu, "house", plural: iglooit or igluit, but in English commonly igloos), is usually reffered to a shelter constructed from blocks of snow, generally in the form of a dome.
Although igloos are usually associated with all Inuit, they were predominantly constructed by people of Canada's Central Arctic and Greenland's Thule area. Other Inuit people tended to use snow to insulate their houses which consisted of whalebone and hides.


There are three types of igloo, which range in size and are used for different purposes.
The smallest is constructed as a temporary shelter, usually only used for one or two nights. These are built and used during hunting trips, often on open sea ice.
Next in size is the semi-permanent, intermediate-sized family dwelling. This is usually a single room dwelling that houses one or two families. Often there are several of these in a small area, which forme an "Inuit village".
The largest of the igloos is normally built in groups of two. One of the buildings is a temporary structure built for special occasions, the other built nearby for living. These might have up to five rooms and house up to 20 people. A large igloo may be constructed from several smaller igloos attached by their tunnels giving common access to the outside. These are used to hold community feasts and traditional dances.

Constructing an igloo

The snow used to build an igloo must have sufficient structural strength to be cut and stacked in the appropriate manner. The best snow to use for this purpose is snow which has been blown by wind, which can serve to compact and interlock the ice crystals. The hole left in the snow where the blocks are cut from is usually used as the lower half of the shelter. Sometimes, a short tunnel is constructed at the entrance to reduce wind and heat loss when the door is opened. Due to snow's excellent insulating properties, inhabited igloos are surprisingly comfortable and warm inside. In some cases a single block of ice is inserted to allow light into the igloo.
Architecturally, the igloo is unique in that it is a dome that can be raised out of independent blocks leaning on each other and polished to fit without an additional supporting structure during construction. The igloo, if correctly built, will support the weight of a person standing on the roof. Also, in the traditional Inuit igloo the heat from the kulliq (stone lamp) caused the interior to melt slightly. This melting and refreezing built up an ice sheet and contributed to the strength of the igloo. The sleeping platform is a raised area compared to where one enters the igloo. Because warmer air rises and cooler air settles, the entrance area will act as a cold trap whereas the sleeping area will hold whatever heat is generated by a stove, lamp or body heat.


Snow has good insulation properties due to its low density. With exterior temperatures as low as −45 °C (−49 °F), the interior temperature of an igloo may range from −7 °C (19 °F) to 16 °C (61 °F) when warmed by body heat alone.
The Central Inuit, especially those around the Davis Strait, line the living area with skin, which can increase the temperature within from around 2 °C (36 °F) to 10-20 °C (50-68 °F).


In heraldry, the igloo appears as the crest in the coat of arms of Nunavut.



igloo in Asturian: Iglú
igloo in Bengali: ইগলু
igloo in Czech: Iglú
igloo in Danish: Iglo
igloo in German: Iglu
igloo in Spanish: Iglú
igloo in Esperanto: Iglo
igloo in Basque: Iglu
igloo in French: Igloo
igloo in Korean: 이글루
igloo in Upper Sorbian: Iglu
igloo in Indonesian: Igloo
igloo in Italian: Iglù
igloo in Hebrew: איגלו
igloo in Georgian: იგლუ
igloo in Latin: Iglu
igloo in Macedonian: Игло
igloo in Marathi: ईग्‍लू
igloo in Dutch: Iglo
igloo in Cree: ᐄᔅᒌᒣᐅᑲᒥᒄ
igloo in Japanese: イグルー
igloo in Norwegian: Iglo
igloo in Polish: Igloo
igloo in Portuguese: Iglu
igloo in Russian: Иглу
igloo in Simple English: Igloo
igloo in Sundanese: Igloo
igloo in Finnish: Iglu
igloo in Swedish: Iglo
igloo in Tamil: இக்லூ
igloo in Vietnamese: Lều tuyết
igloo in Turkish: İglo
igloo in Chinese: 冰屋

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

apse, arcade, arcature, arch, arched roof, archway, avalanche, blizzard, camber, ceilinged roof, concameration, concha, cove, crystal, cupola, dome, driven snow, flake, flurry, geodesic dome, granular snow, hogan, jacal, keystone, longhouse, mantle of snow, mogul, ogive, skewback, slosh, slush, snow, snow banner, snow bed, snow blanket, snow blast, snow fence, snow flurry, snow roller, snow slush, snow squall, snow wreath, snow-crystal, snowball, snowbank, snowbridge, snowcap, snowdrift, snowfall, snowfield, snowflake, snowland, snowman, snowscape, snowshed, snowslide, snowslip, snowstorm, span, tepee, tupik, vault, vaulting, voussoir, wet snow, wickiup, wigwam
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