Printable Version
Pronunciation: jun-teenth Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, proper

Meaning: Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. This African-American celebration remembers the day, June 19, 1865, when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached slaves in Galveston, Texas—two and a half years after it was issued.

Notes: Early celebrations evolved into political rallies and later into formal celebrations planned far in advance by Juneteenth committees. In early years these celebrations were commonly relegated by law to the outskirts of towns. However, many Juneteenth organizations eventually purchased tracts of land inside towns for the express purpose of holding the celebration. Many of these tracts were named 'Emancipation Park' and some remain today. A bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday passed unanimously in the Senate in 2021. President Biden signed it on June 17 of the same year, making Juneteenth a federal holiday, which we celebrate today.

In Play: The Juneteenth celebrations are held today in more cities across the US than ever before. This year (2023) marks the de facto 158th anniversary of this holiday. Now that it is an official federal holiday, Juneteenth means a day off work for government workers, though most businesses will honor it, too.

Word History: Today's Good Word is a blend of June and nineteenth that sounds rather odd, since -teen-th is a suffix that usually attaches to numbers. (Teen is a variant of ten.) June was taken from the calendar of the Romans, who named the month after their goddess, Juno, the wife of Jupiter and the goddess of the moon, marriage, and childbirth. Juno's name comes from the same PIE word (yeu- "youthful vigor") as the Latinate words junior, juvenile, and our own Germanic versions, English young, German and Dutch jung "young", and Swedish ung "young". (Let us all join with Larry Brady, who originally suggested today's Good Word, in celebrating this unique US holiday and the freedom from repression it reminds us of.)

Dr. Goodword,

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