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!


Fun Etymology Tuesday – Advent

Ladies and gents! We’re getting close to the Fourth Sunday of Advent!


So, in honour of that, today’s word is Advent!

Meaning the ecclesiastical season immediately preceding Christmas, this word was attested as early as 1119 in English and as early as the 7th or 8th century in Latin so it has certainly been around for a long time!

From Latin adventus, this word means “a coming, approach, arrival”. In Church Latin, though, it has the extended sense of “the coming of the Savior”. The Latin word comes from the past participle stem of Latin advenire, meaning “arrive at, come to” and can be divided into two parts:

ad-, a word-forming element that expresses direction toward something or in addition to something. The Latin word ad – meaning “to, toward” in space or time or “with regard to, in relation to” as a prefix – comes from the PIE root *ad-, meaning “to, near, at”.

ventus, which comes from venire, meaning “to come”. This word comes from a suffixed form of the PIE root *gwa-, meaning “to go, come”.

And that is the history of advent!

Next Tuesday is Christmas Eve, which means that I’ll be celebrating Christmas and have an armful of nephews to play with! But don’t fret, I am ever faithful to my dear followers!

Welcome back next week and learn the etymological origin of
Santa Claus!