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10 Words you only hear at Christmas: Part 1


Here at Spellzone, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! And along with the decorations box and that Michael Bublé album, we’re finding ourselves using certain words that only come out at this time of year.

Let’s take a closer at some Christmas-related words and where they come from:

  • Carol
    While the word ‘carol’ can refer to religious hymns from all seasons, many people associate the word with Christmas songs in particular. Around 1300 the word referred to both a ‘joyful song’ and a ‘dance in a ring’, and it came to be used in reference to Christmas hymns from around 1500. ‘Carol’ comes from the Old French ‘carole’.

  • Manger
    Famous for its role as a makeshift bed for the new-born baby Jesus, a ‘manger’ is a trough found in stables and cowsheds from which horses or cattle feed. Indeed, if you speak French you might already know the link between this word and the French word for eating. In English, the word dates back to the early fourteenth-century ‘maunger’. This comes from the Old French ‘mangeoire’ which comes from ‘mangier’ meaning ‘to eat’. The Latin root of this word is ‘mandere’ meaning ‘to chew’.

  • Nativity
    When you hear the word ‘nativity’, you might think of school plays or stable scenes as part of people’s Christmas decorations. While the word can be used to refer to the occasion of any person’s birth, it has long had been used in reference to the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. It derives from the Old French ‘nativité’ meaning ‘birth’ from the Latin ‘nativus’ meaning ‘born’ or ‘native’.

  • Tidings
    This archaic word for ‘news’ is popular in Christmas songs and carols and dates back to around 1200. It comes from the Old English word ‘tidan’ meaning ‘to happen’.

  • Yule
    Perhaps now most-commonly used in reference to a chocolate dessert known as ‘yule log’, the word ‘yule’ is an old-fashioned term for the Christmas season. The word comes from the Old English ‘geol, geola’ meaning ‘Chrismastide’, which in comes from an Old Norse word ‘jol’ which was the name of a heathen winter feast. Some sources state that the Old Norse entered Old French as ‘jolif’ and became the root for the Modern French word ‘joli’ which now means ‘pretty’ but originally meant ‘festive’. The term ‘yule log’ dates back to the seventeenth century.

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


17 Dec 2018
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