Word of the Day

Santa Claus

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an imaginary man with a long white beard and a red suit who brings presents for children at Christmas

Origin of the word

The term Santa Claus comes from the Dutch ‘Sinterklaas’ meaning ‘Saint Nicholas’ and was first used in American English around 1765.


Santa Claus is a fictional character who delivers presents to well-behaved children on Christmas Eve. The legend of Santa Claus has its origins in Western Christian culture, and is largely based on the historic figure of Saint Nicholas, a real-life Greek bishop who lived during the 4th century and was known for secretly leaving gifts at the homes of children. According to folklore, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, where he keeps a list of the names of all the children in the world, marking them as ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ depending on their behaviour throughout the year. He brings presents to the homes of good children on Christmas Eve with the help of his elves and the magic flying reindeer who pull his sleigh.

One company has recently tried to estimate just how much it might cost in real-world money to fund Santa’s Christmas Eve delivery service. UK-based company Serenata Flowers says it would take about $25bn a year to take over Santa’s job: $24.3bn to produce and package one $10 gift for each of the 2.4 billion children aged 0-17 around the world, $49.8m to cover food and accommodation costs for Santa’s elves, $291.4m for insurance, and $683m for shipping should something happen to Santa’s magic sleigh. (This infographic details their calculations.)


“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”
(Shirley Temple Black)


Santa, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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