Blizzard in New York City, 1899. (Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York)

On March 7th, 1881—at the tail end of what is considered one of the most severe winters in American history—the NY Times (via The Daily Republican) reported on the first use of the word "blizzard," which they determined was first printed as a weather term in the 1860s.

They noted that weather prophet "Lightning Ellis," nicknamed that for his "amazing slowness," originated the word "as it was subsequently applied to the awful storms which devastated Minnesota in the [18]60s. The word was first given to the public by O.C. Bates, Esq., through the columns of the Northern Vindicator," who used it "to head an article on a great storm," noting it would immortalize Ellis. (Before it was a weather term, it typically meant "violent blow" or "knock-down blow," while the word "blizz" meant "violent rainstorm" and was used as early as the 1700s.)

"Undoubtedly the word was first used in print in the Vindicator, as above described, sometime in the 1860s. At any rate, the Daily Republican can show the word 'blizzard,' as applied to a storm, in a newspaper published nearly 15 years ago, and challenges earlier public use of the term."

It eventually made its way across the pond, and in 1888 the Times again wrote about the origin of the word, and this time took a strangely protective hold of it—all but sticking an American flag in it. When Englishmen started using "blizzard" incorrectly, they wrote, "We beg to remark that blizzard is not a swear word, nor has it any distinctive reference to electrical storms... Until bereft of our own or better authority the American theory of the American term for an American storm will hold its own."

It seems the NY Times first used the word "blizzard" in their weather reporting in January of 1881, which is likely the reason they examined its origins just a couple of months later. By the Blizzard of 1899, it was in common use.

Now, who can we hold responsible for blizzageddon and snowpocalypse?