• Hogmanay •Pronunciation: hahg-mê-nay • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, proper
Meaning: Hogmanay is not a pig resort but a Scottish festivity celebrated on the last day of the year. Children traditionally stroll about the neighborhood on this day asking for presents. Today's Good Word also refers to the gifts given or received on Hogmanay. More recently it has become a raucous New Year's Eve party in many Scottish cities at which revelers sometimes do behave a bit swinishly.
Notes: The traditional Hogmanay includes "first footing", the welcoming of a tall, dark stranger at the stroke of midnight. First-footers bring good luck but should also bring a gift such as uisge beatha "water of life" (where Gaelic uisge is the source of English whiskey). If the uisge is all sold out, a lump of coal or an oat cake called a 'bannock' will suffice. This tradition reaches back to the Viking era, when the blond, blue-eyed Vikings brought only bad luck to whomever they visited. Whichever party you join this year, look out for the accent on the final syllable of today's Good Word.
In Play: If you would like to add a bit of innovation to your end-of-the-year greetings, try "Merry Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay!" for a change. If you go to the Hogmanay street party in Edinburgh or Glasgow, though, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to hear you.
Word History: The sense of Hogmanay corresponds to that of Old French aguillanneuf, from the phrase au gui l'an neuf! "under the New Year's mistletoe", which refers to the last day of the year or the gift given at that time. In modern French dialects it survives as aiguilan, guilané, and guilanneau, but in Normandy it is hoguinané, the most probable source of the Scottish English term. Others have speculated that hogmanay itself comes either from the Anglo-Saxon haleg monath "holy month" or Gaelic oge maidne "new morning". These sources seem highly unlikely, however.