Christmas: Etymology of Christmas

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"Christmas" is a compound word originating in the term "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English Cristemasse, which is from Old English Crīstesmæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038[7] followed by the word Cristes-messe in 1131.[27] Crīst (genitive Crīstes) is from Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), a translation of Hebrew Māšîaḥ (מָשִׁיחַ), "Messiah", meaning "annointed";[28][29] and mæsse is from Latin missa, the celebration of the Eucharist. The form "Christenmas" was also historically used, but is now considered archaic and dialectal;[30] it derives from Middle English Cristenmasse, literally "Christian mass".[31] "Xmas" is an abbreviation of Christmas found particularly in print, based on the initial letter chi (Χ) in Greek Khrīstos (Χριστός), "Christ", though numerous style guides discourage its use;[32] it has precedent in Middle English Χρ̄es masse (where "Χρ̄" is an abbreviation for Χριστός).[31]

Other names

In addition to "Christmas", the holiday has been known by various other names throughout its history. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the feast as "midwinter",[33][34] or, more rarely, as Nātiuiteð (from Latin nātīvitās below).[33][35] "Nativity", meaning "birth", is from Latin nātīvitās.[36] In Old English, Gēola ("Yule") referred to the period corresponding to January and December;[37] the cognate Old Norse Jól was later the name of a pagan Scandinavian holiday which merged with Christmas around 1000.[33] "Noel" (or "Nowell") entered English in the late 14th century and is from the Old French noël or naël, itself ultimately from the Latin nātālis (diēs), "(day) of birth".[38]
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