Fun Etymology Tuesday – Santa Claus

God jul, dear friends!

Today, I celebrate Christmas with my family in Sweden. But not only is it Christmas (for me), it is our 200th post on the blog!

Isn’t that amazing – when we started this blog about 2½ years ago, there was no telling how this was gonna go, but here we are! With a steadily growing readership, I am very happy to continue to entertain you each week. If there is anything you’re missing on the blog – please let me know!

But, it is not only Christmas Eve and our 200th post: it is also Tuesday, and as always, here is your Fun Etymology!

Today’s word is Santa Claus!

First attested in the New York Gazette as St. A Claus in 1773, this name comes to English (specifically to American English) from the dialectal Dutch Sante Klaas from Middle Dutch Sinter Niklaas.

As you might have guessed, the Dutch word refers to Saint Nicholas. The bishop of Asia Minor during the end of the Roman Empire was named the patron saint of scholars, especially of schoolchildren, and of children generally, following his death.

Image result for saint nicholas
Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas is actually still visible in some variations of the Santa suit.

Santa is often associated with the red suit with white fur trimmings, which can be attributed to Thomas Nast. Nast first dressed Santa in a red suit in an 1881 illustration, but the Coca Cola Company, who started its campaign with Santa in a red suit during the 1930s, is often given credit for it. Santa may, however, sometimes be dressed in long robes and a bishop’s mitre – thus calling back to Saint Nicholas.

And that is the story of Santa Claus! He may, of course, be known by other names (Father Christmas is found in English since around 1650), but regardless of the name, I do hope he brings you a merry and joyful Christmas!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.