• noel •
Pronunciation: no-wel • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Capitalized) Christmastide. 2. (Uncapitalized) A Christmas carol.
Notes: This word was borrowed from French such a short linguistic time ago that we are still allowed to decorate it even as we decorate our Christmas trees: Noël. The sense of a Christmas carol is not popular in the US as it is in other English-speaking countries; it is often used as a synonym of Christmas in the US.
In Play: This word is used in America mostly when we sing the Christmas carol, "The First Noël", around Christmas. It also appears on many Christmas cards. Here is another use: "All of us here at alphaDictionary and Lexiteria wish all our visitors, contributors, and readers, Christian and otherwise, a joyous Noël and a happy and most prosperous New Year."
Word History: Today's word in the late 14th century was nowel "feast of Christmastide", from Old French noel "Christmastide". Noel is a variant of nael, all that was left of Latin natalis (dies) "birth (day)" by the time it reached Old French. In Church Latin it referred to the birthday of Christ, from natus, the past participle of nasci "be born". The Latin stem is found in many English words borrowed from Latin, including native, prenatal, and nation. Nasci in Old Latin was gnasci, a close relative of genus and its relatives such as general and generate. (Let's now wish Henry F. Koch an especially happy Noël for recommending today's Good and topical Word.)