Printable Version
Pronunciation: hah-lê-day Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A day of leisure, away from work, usually to celebrate a historical event, as the Fourth of July holiday. 2. (British) A vacation, as in, "We are on holiday."

Notes: Speakers of British English may use today's Good Word as a verb in the second sense, as to holiday in the Seychelles. Since the second meaning allows verbal use, we may use holidayer in that sense only, though holidaymaker is much more widely used in referring to vacationers.

In Play: The American sense of the word usually refers to a single day: "Every Monday is a holiday for Tom Collins: he celebrates the hangover he put on over the weekend." The British sense of today's Good Word is a bit different: "I'm holidaying this year at home with the kids, while the wife goes on holiday for a respite from them."

Word History: Around 1200 today's Good Word was spelled haliday, a spelling that survives today as a surname. This word descended from Old English haligdæg "holy day; Sabbath", from halig "holy" + dæg "day". It wasn't until the 14th century that the sense moved on to "religious festival", and then to "day of recreation". Proto-Germanic hailaga-, where Old English halig came from, also produced the verb hallow in "hallowed be thy name". German heilig "holy" comes from the same ancient root. Old English dg "day" came from the Proto-Indo-European word for "burn, heat". The related word in Sanskrit, which seems to have derived from the same PIE word, was dahah "heat, burning". The sense of today's word probably migrated to "day" in the Germanic languages because the middle of the day is the hottest moment of a day. (Thanks to Michael Martin for suggesting today's festive Good Word. May he have happy holidays all year long.)

Dr. Goodword,

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