- Paul Anthony Jones
(n.) a single ball of hail-like snow
Never mind there being fifty Inuit words for snow, English does fairly well on its own. From flothers to bletts to a whewling of only a few flakes, we have quite the robust vocabulary of snow-related words to call upon should the need ever arise. And now there’s this one to add to the list: a grampel is a single gritty, hail-like ball of falling snow.
In answer to a lot (read: A LOT) of Twitter comments, messages and emails, yes, there is a word, graupel, for hail-like snow, but no this is not a typo. HH is dedicated to obscure words, so if you’ve heard of graupel (which, hoo boy, a LOT of people had) then that’s a fairly good sign that it’s too well-known to warrant a shoutout on here. Grampel, however, is a more obscure affair.
It’s a regional term found in a handful of English dialects and—perhaps relatedly, but perhaps also entirely independently—in a handful of American English dialects too. Etymologically, it’s probably little more than a regional development of graupel, which itself is a German word descended from Graupelwetter, or ‘hail-weather’. But it nevertheless stands alone as a word in its own right. And is most definitely not a typo.