Well, its that time of year again. Malls are crowded with people searching for that perfect gift, and the post office is flooded with letters to Santa. Since Christmas is about two weeks away, I thought it would be appropriate to look at the origins of a few related words.
It wouldn’t be a Christmas word list, if I didn’t explain where Christmas, the word actually comes from. Christmas is a combination of the words Christ and Mass. Christ comes from the title given to Jesus, which in Greek is Khristos= the anointed. Mass being the Eucharist service, its meaning being derived from the Latin massa= dismissal. It was first used as one word during the mid-14th century.
Mistletoe is the modern equivalent of the Old English word mistiltan, which was derived from mistle=basil or mistletoe (an older English variant) and tan=twig. The Old English tan is also similar to the Old Saxon ten, the Old Norse tein, the Dutch teen, the Old High German zein, and the Gothic tains, all of which mean twig.
FYI, for those of you who may be unsure mistletoe’ berries are white, while holly is the plant with the red berries.
Today the term carol, refers to a Christmas song. It was first used to describe a joyful Christmas hymn in the 1500s. When it was first used in 1300s, it referred to a joyful song or a dance in a ring. The word has a long list of word ancestors, the nearest being the French carole= a dance in a ring accompanied by singers. The French carole, was believed to come from the medieval Latin word choraula= a dance to a flute, which come from choraules=a flute player. The Latin choraules comes from the Greek khoraules (also meaning flute player), which was formed by combining khoros=chorus and aulien= to play the flute.
Stocking in the sense of Christmas, is a sock shaped container made of fabric, in which small goodies such as candy and chocolate are often placed, separate from larger gifts. The word was used in this sense from 1853 onward. The term stocking stuffer, was first used in 1945. Stocking, was first used in the 1580s, and comes from the Old English stocu= sleeve, which was from the late 15th century.