Eskimo has come to be considered offensive, especially in Canada. However, it remains an acceptable term for northern peoples in Alaska—including the Inuit Inupiat and the non-Inuit Yupik—and the only encompassing term for all of these Arctic peoples. It is also used worldwide by historians and archaeologists.
The name declined in use because it was thought to stem from a Cree pejorative meaning “eaters of raw meat” rather than from the Inuit people's name for themselves, but this etymology is now discredited (in fact, both the Cree and Inuit ate raw meat).
In Canada, Eskimo has been superseded by Inuit for the people, which name has official status, and Inuktitut for the language. The Inuit group of Canada's Western Arctic call themselves Inuvialuit. Greenland natives also call themselves Greenlanders or Kalaallit, and their language Greenlandic or Kalaallisut.
Also note that Eskimo does not include the related Aleut people (Unangam), nor the Indian or First Nations peoples of the Arctic.
(plural Eskimo or Eskimos)
- A member of any of the Eskimo peoples.
(comparative more Eskimo, superlative most Eskimo)
- Of or relating to the Eskimo peoples.
- In, of, or relating to the Eskimo languages.
First attested 1584 in the (now obsolete) spelling Esquimawe, from French Esquimaux (“Eskimos (plural)”), from Spanish esquimao, esquimal (used by Basque fishermen in Labrad), from Old Montagnais ayaškimew (“snowshoe-netter”) (compare Montagnais assime·w (“she laces a snowshoe”), Ojibwe aškime·, aagimike). The name was originally applied by the Innu people to the Mi'kmaq and later transferred to the Labrador Inuit; see the usage notes below. It was also once thought to mean "eaters of raw meat", but most authorities now dismiss this.