Christmas Words (2)

Back to it. More Christmas words:

Next, nativity. If capitalized, the word refers to the birth of Christ. Otherwise, it means the process, fact, or circumstances of being born, according to Merriam-Webster. It dates back to the early twelfth century word, Nativite, meaning the feast day celebrating the birth of Christ, Christmas, deriving from Old French nativité—birth, origin, descent, birthday, or Christmas. The origin was Late Latin nativitatem (nominative nativitas), “birth,” from Latin nativus, “born, native.”

Santa Claus: That’s the name we give to the spirit of Christmas personified. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the name first appeared in English in 1773 as “St. A Claus,” in the New York Gazette. It’s from the dialectal Dutch Sante Klaas, from Middle Dutch Sinter Niklaas. That name refers to Saint Nicholas of Myra (traditionally reported to have lived from March 15, 270 to December 6, 343), also known as Nicholas of Bari. He was a bishop of Greek descent from the maritime city of Myra in Asia Minor who became the patron saint for children. The name Santa Claus is now a worldwide phenomenon (example: Japanese santakurosu) for Father Christmas, first mentioned in the 1650s.

Frankincense: an aromatic gum resin from a tree, used anciently as incense and in religious rituals. It was one of the gifts from the Magi, three wise men who, the bible reports, visited the infant Jesus. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word first appeared in the late fourteenth century. It’s apparently from Old French franc encense—from franc meaning noble, true (in this case probably signifying pure or of the highest quality) and encens, incense.

Myrrh: a gum-resin extracted from a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora. It was another Magi gift. Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense, and medicine. The etymology from the Online Etymology Dictionary is long and complex: Middle English mirre, from Old French mirre (eleventh century) and also from Old English myrre. Both the Old English and Old French words are from the Latin myrrha (source also of Dutch mirre, German Myrrhe, French myrrhe, Italian and Spanish mirra), from Greek myrrha, from a Semitic source—compare Akkadian murru, Hebrew mor, and Arabic murr, from a root meaning “was bitter.” The classical spelling restoration introduced in the sixteenth century.

And finally, manger: a feeding box for horses and cattle. The Online Etymology Dictionary says that the word derives from the early fourteenth century word, maunger, from Old French mangeoire (crib, manger), from mangier—to eat (Modern French manger, to eat), from Late Latin manducare, to chew or eat, from manducus,glutton, from Latin mandere. to chew.


4 thoughts on “Christmas Words (2)”

    1. That’s the age I was “driving” a tractor down a corn row as my father picked corn by hand. Left agricultural life for the Army soon after I turned 18. Much easier life and far more rewarding.


  1. Same here. In the army, I went to language school for a year and then was assigned to NSA. I didn’t face combat until I was an NSA civilian undercover as a soldier or Marine, assisting forces on the battlefield. Because my time on the battlefield overseas was as a civilian, VFW won’t admit me to their ranks.


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