Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for December 25, 2020 is:

noel • noh-EL  • noun

1 : a Christmas carol

2 capitalized Christmas : Christmas


“No surprise, the 12 tracks aren’t exactly traditional noels. They celebrate the season with upbeat, fast songs about animals, food, pirates, and more.” — Michael Walsh, Nerdist, 6 Nov. 2020

“Dating from the 17th century, the privately owned chateau—the original inspiration for the palace of Versailles—stages a Noel to remember. Festive decorations fill each room, the smell of cinnamon and spices wafts through the corridors, the gardens are strung with lights, and an enormous Christmas tree lords over the Grand Salon.” — Mary Winston Nicklin, The Luxury Travel Advisor, 1 Nov. 2018

Did you know?

English speakers borrowed the word noel from French. It can be traced further back to the Latin word natalis, which can mean “birthday” as a noun or “of or relating to birth” as an adjective. (The English adjective natal has the same meaning and is also an offspring of natalis.) Noels were being sung in Latin or French for centuries before English-speakers started using the word to refer to Christmas carols in the 18th century. An early use of noel (spelled nowell) to mean “Christmas” can be found in the text of the late 14th-century Arthurian legend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

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