Etymology of NOËL

Another term signifying the holiday season, Noël comes to us from the Latin verb nasci, meaning “to be born.”

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the birth of Jesus is called natalis. A variation of this word, nael, made its way into Old French as a reference to the Christmas season and later into Middle English as nowel.

  • Pingback:Noel! | Lauren Is My Sister
    Posted at 21:28h, 27 December Reply

    […] Noel, simply put, is another word for “Christmas” or the events surrounding Christmas. It is also spelled “Nowell” or “Noël” and is derived from French, and before that the Latin natalis, which refers to the nativity of Christ. So the word noel is very Christological in meaning and specifically refers to the incarnation of Christ. So the next time you sing “The First Noel,” you can have a more detailed idea of what you’re singing about. […]

  • Pingback:Noel etymology | Winthrophallre
    Posted at 01:41h, 02 September Reply

    […] Etymology of NOËL | ALTA Language ServicesSome thoughts I collected regarding the etymology of the word "Noel": The french "now*ell", of which the first syllable is based on the latin "natus" (birth), but the … […]

  • Gregor McHardy
    Posted at 11:42h, 05 December Reply

    In Book First, Chapter 5 of Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback” the crowd lets out several “Noel” shouts, and this on January 6th. Why were they shouting “Merry Christmas?”

    The lack of any labio-dentals or sibilants in Noel makes it a difficult stretch to derive it from NATUS or NASCI.

    Are we, who are chronologically and linguistically far separated from Hugo’s scholarship, grasping at straws to link the roots of the word with its present meaning?

    I don’t know a different root from which to derive the word, but I’m wondering if better scholars could look at it again with Hugo’s usage in mind.

  • Maddox
    Posted at 08:49h, 30 December Reply

    I thought no well was from nouvelles, French fo r news?

  • Brian Fileman
    Posted at 07:15h, 21 September Reply

    I have to point out Maria Khodorkovsky’s error regarding Ecclesiates. It is an ‘Old Testament’ book and therefore predates Christianity be several centuries. I think she meant Ecclesiasticus – part of the Apochrypha.
    As for the derivation of Noel, it is might be a contraction from Hebrew; ‘nolad El’ meaning ‘God (is) born’.

    • Diomedes Exulans
      Posted at 01:52h, 24 January Reply

      They’re shouting Merry Christmas on 6 January because it is the twelfth day of Christmas, the feast of the Epiphany.

  • Suzanne Bryant
    Posted at 07:15h, 09 March Reply

    I just came across this word as what the French chanted when a King was crowned at coronation (and in particular Charles VII) can anyone explain why that would be? I can only imagine it is to do with the Latin meaning ‘to be born’ – a King is born? Is this linked to the other explanations of Christmas and nouvelles? Thank you.

  • Laura-Lala Bennett
    Posted at 03:29h, 08 December Reply


Post A Comment