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10 Words you only hear at Christmas: Part 2


Here at Spellzone, it’s looking even more like Christmas and we’re finding ourselves using certain words that only come out at this time of year!

Last week we looked at 5 Christmas-themed words and their origins – here are 5 more:

  • Eggnog
    Eggnog is a drink made from alcohol (usually rum or brandy) mixed with beaten egg, milk, and sugar. The word ‘nog’ refers to strong ale. It dates to the 1690s when it described an ‘old, strong type of beer brewed in Norfolk’.

  • Merry
    Like the word ‘tidings’ in last week’s article, the word ‘merry’ pops ups in Christmas songs but seems to hide away for the rest of the year. The word comes from the Old English ‘myrge’ meaning ‘pleasing, agreeable, pleasant, sweet; pleasantly, melodiously’. ‘Myrge’ comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘murgijaz’ which likely meant ‘short-lasting’ and comes from the PIE root ‘mregh-u’ meaning ‘short’. The connection between ‘short’ and ‘pleasing’ probably comes from the idea of time flying by when you’re having a nice time.

  • Mull
    If you’re not keen on eggnog, perhaps you’re a fan of mulled wine? The word ‘mull’ has been used to describe the process of heating a drink with sweeteners and spices since the 1600s. While the origin of this word is unknown, there may be a link with the Dutch word ‘mol’ which was used to describe a sweet beer. The word ‘mull’ has also been used in English to mean ‘ponder’ since 1873.

  • Partridge
    While you don’t often hear the word ‘partridge’ during the rest of the year, at Christmas this bird takes pride of place in the seasonal favourite ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. The word dates back to the late-twelfth century and derives from Old French ‘perdis’ which in turn comes from the Latin ‘perdicem’ meaning ‘plover, lapwing’. ‘Perdicem’ is probably related to the Greek ‘perdesthai’ which means ‘to break wind’. ‘Breaking wind’, in the case of ‘partridge’, refers to the whirring noise of the birds’ wings, but we can think another word that rhymes with ‘part’ and comes from the same origin!

  • Tinsel
    Whether you love tinsel or hate it, there’s no debate that it’s a word associated with Christmas. It dates back to the mid-fifteenth century when it was used to describe ‘a kind of cloth made with interwoven gold or silver thread’. The word derives from the Middle French word ‘estincelle’ which means ‘spark’ or ‘spangle’. The word ‘stencil’ also comes from the word ‘estincelle’.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find more of our Christmas articles here:

From all the team at Spellzone, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary


27 Dec 2018
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