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The Word Christmas: Meaning and Orthography

"Christmas" (pronounced Kris'mas) signifies "Christ's Mass," meaning the festival of the Nativity of Christ, and the word has been variously spelt at different periods.

The following are obsolete forms of it found in old English writings:

Crystmasse, Cristmes, Cristmas, Crestenmes, Crestenmas, Cristemes, Cristynmes, Crismas, Kyrsomas, Xtemas, Cristesmesse, Cristemasse, Crystenmas, Crystynmas, Chrystmas, Chrystemes, Chrystemasse, Chrystymesse, Cristenmas, Christenmas, Christmass, Christmes.

NoŽl

Christmas has also been called NoŽl or Nowel. As to the derivation of the word NoŽl, some say it is a contraction of the French nouvelles (tidings), les bonnes nouvelles, that is "The good news of the Gospel"; others take it as an abbreviation of the Gascon or ProvenÁal nadaŁ, nadal, which means the same as the Latin natalis, that is, dies natalis, "the birthday." In "The Franklin's Tale," Chaucer alludes to "Nowel" as a festive cry at Christmastide: "And 'Nowel' crieth every lusty man."

Yule

Some say NoŽl is a corruption of Yule, Jule, or Ule, meaning "The festival of the sun." The name Yule is still applied to the festival in Scotland, and some other places. Christmas is represented in Welsh by Nadolig, which signifies "the natal, or birth"; in French by NoŽl; and in Italian by Il Natale, which, together with its cognate term in Spanish, is simply a contraction of dies natalis, "the birthday."

 

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