In my native language, it is common to describe the heaviness of a snowfall by the height of the accumulated snow on the ground.

Literally it would translate like

  • Yesterday there was a snowfall. The snow has accumulated 1m high.
  • In this part of the country, we have lots of snow. Two or three times in a winter, we have 2m accumulation of snow.

I assume these are not very idiomatic. What do English speakers say to describe how much snow has fallen?

3 Answers 3


In English we also quantify snowfall (and rainfall!) in terms of height. In the US this is in inches and feet. But instead of talking about the accumulation we usually use the verb receive (or a synonym) in the passive voice:

We received three inches of rain last night.
Buffalo was hit by a heavy snowstorm and received two feet of snow.
They usually get three feet of snow once or twice a winter.

Note that snow compresses as it accumulates, which means measuring the amount of snow received is not as simple as just going out the next morning with a yardstick. See the wiki article on snow gauges for more information.

  • 4
    I think "fell" and "fall" are more common than receive Six inches of snow fell on buffalo." "Today's snowfall was four inches". "It is predicted the nine inches of snow will fall n=tonight." Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 2:52
  • 1
    So accumulate usually doesn't collocate with X inches of snow?
    – sundowner
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 3:02
  • 1
    @sundowner - Accumulate is not generally used in the U.S. to describe precipitation amounts. There are some particular times where it might be said. For example a TV weather-person might say, Total accumulation amount for this weekend's snowstorm is predicted to be between two and three feet. If you used accumulation you would be understood.
    – EllieK
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 18:18

Generally, the terms used are "heavy" (for more) and "light" (for less).

These work for other types of precipitation as well (e.g. rain). More snow = more weight, and so is "heavier".

So, for example a "light shower of rain" (I'm from a hot area, so we very rarely get snow outside of the mountains) might leave on slightly wet, whereas a very "heavy rain" might lead to flash floods.

  • For those of us not from a hot area, it's perfectly normal to refer to 'six inches of snow'. Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 8:14

You could say "6 inches of snow has accumulated", but not "it has accumulated 6 inches". Also "deep" is more likely than "high": The snow is 6 inches deep. "Accumulate" sounds rather technical to me. But living in the South of England, I don't have that much experience with deep snot.

Some expressions that seem idiomatic:

Ten centimetres of snow fell last night.

We are forecasting over a foot of snow in the North.

The snow was a metre deep in places.

Blizzard conditions have led to snow drifts of six feet.

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