Posts tagged ‘word origins’

October 29, 2014


The bonfire has long been associated with Halloween and continues to be a common tradition in much of the Halloween celebrating world.

The practice of lighting large fires dates back to roots of Halloween in the festival of Samhain which celebrated the summer’s end and the beginning of the dark season. Samhain also marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. On the eve of Samhain, young people would go from house to house asking for food offerings and kindling for the Samhain fires. The following day, the traditional day of Samhain, November 1st, people would extinguish their hearth fires and gather together to light large fires on sacred hill tops to make offerings to the gods.

Crops and the bones of animals which had been collected were burnt in the fires as offerings. Our modern word, bonfire, comes from the words bone and fire and refers to this practice.


May 13, 2014

may 13

British thieves and swindlers of old used many secret codewords. One such word was fawney, which referred to a gilt ring. They would sell these, saying that they were made of real gold. But the rings were not genuine gold, and the word phony – from fawney – came to be used for anything that is fake or not genuine.


March 11, 2014


Many Irish family names start with “Mac” or “O’… “, which respectively means “son of…” and “grandson of…” in Gaelic.


February 5, 2014


Lace is often used on Valentine decorations. The word “lace” comes    from the Latin word laques, meaning “to snare or net,” as in to catch a person’s heart.


January 6, 2014


The Christian holiday of Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th, the last day of the twelve days of Christmas.  It takes its name from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “appearance,” since according to traditional belief, it was on that day, that the Magi (or Wise Men), first saw the baby Jesus.

Source: The Word Origin 2014 Calendar

December 15, 2013


Wassail is a beverage dating back to the Middle Ages. The word is derived from Old Norse, meaning “in good health.” This evolved into visiting neighbors on Christmas Eve and drinking to their health. The actual ingredients in traditional wassail are widely disputed. This could be attributable to the fact that festive bands who traveled from home to home often replenished the bowl with whatever liquid refreshment was available. While one home might have apple cider, another might have spirits of a stronger sort such as ale, wine or hard cider. Most modern recipes for wassail use hot apple cider simmered with spices and sweetened with honey.


December 13, 2013


 The abbreviation “Xmas” is not a non-religious version of “Christmas”. The “X” is actually indicating the Greek letter “Chi”, which is short for the Greek , meaning “Christ”.


December 3, 2013


The name for mistletoe comes from the fact that mistletoe tends to spring from bird droppings that have fallen on trees, with the seeds having passed through the digestive tract of the birds.  At the time the plant was given this name, the people didn’t know anything about that, but had observed that mistletoe seemed to spring into existence from bird droppings on trees, thus “mistle” or “missel”, which meant basically “dung”, and “toe”, which came from the Anglo-Saxon “tan” meaning “twig”;  hence, mistletoe is another way to essentially say “poop twig”.