Fun Etymology Tuesday – Christmas

Friends! A merry Christmas to you all! Aside from being Christmas Day, today is also…. Fun Etymology Tuesday!! You did get a taste yesterday with the Scandinavian word ‘Jul’ and today, we’ll continue on that line of words: today’s word is ‘Christmas’ itself!

Christmas is actually a shortened version of ‘Christ’s mass’ and the first time it pops up in English is in 1038, as ‘Crīstemæsse’. Of course, the word itself can basically be split in two: Crist- and -mæsse. Crist- refers to Christianity’s Jesus Christ, but the word itself comes from Greek Khrīstos, which is a translation from Hebrew Māšîah (Messiah) meaning “anointed”.
The second part of our word for today,
-mæsse, comes from Latin ‘missa’, which refers to the rite of Holy Communion in the Christian faith.

But did you know that, before “Christmas” became the popular word on the block, Anglo-Saxons also used the word “Nātiuiteð” from Latin nātīvitās, meaning “birth”. The modern English word is “nativity”. So, if Christmas hadn’t stuck around, you might have been walking about, telling your (non-pregnant) neighbour to have a great nativity!

But, of course, that didn’t happen, and so, the HLC wishes every one of our readers a very merry Xmas! (Did you know: the abbreviation has actually been around since Middle English, during which we find ‘Χρ̄es masse’ where the Χρ̄ is short for Greek Χριστός, ‘Khrīstos’?)

Merry Christmas, dear friends, from all of us here at the HLC!

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