Word of the Day


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Christmas. This word is used in Christmas songs and on cards.

Origin and usage

The word Noel comes from the French word ‘noel’ meaning ‘the Christmas season’ and is a variation of the Latin word ‘natalis’ which in Western Christian traditions references the birth of Christ. The word Noel first appeared in English sometime in the late 14th century as ‘nowel’ meaning ‘feast of Christmas’.


Noel is a word that typically refers to the Christmas season. It can also be a popular first name (though with a different pronunciation), and famous men named Noel include British playwright and composer Noel Coward, television presenter Noel Edmonds, and musician Noel Gallagher. However, Noel is most often used around Christmas time. In fact, the word ‘noel’ means ‘Christmas’ in modern French; ‘Père Noel’ is French for Father Christmas and ‘The First Noel’ is a traditional English Christmas song.

‘The First Noel’ was first published in 1823 in Carols Ancient and Modern, with editing and arrangement by William Sandys and Davies Gilbert. The modern arrangement of the song was written in 1871 by English composer John Stainer and was first published in his hymnal Carols, New and Old.

Many versions of ‘The First Noel’ have been recorded by famous musicians in the nearly 200 years since it was first published. Notable performances of the song include recordings by Bing Crosby in 1949, Frank Sinatra in 1957, Elvis Presley in 1971, Charlotte Church in 2000, Whitney Houston in 2003, Josh Groban in 2007, Susan Boyle in 2010, Annie Lennox in 2010 and Pentatonix in 2015. The recognizable melody of ‘The First Noel’ has also made it a popular song for instrumental performances by musicians like American jazz guitarist Royce Campbell, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mannheim Steamroller, Percy Faith & His Orchestra and various orchestras throughout the world.


Christmas, Christmas Day
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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