The Etymology and Meaning of NOËL

A 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. Today it refers both to Christmas and to Christmas carols.

  • 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. […]

    • Elizabeth hart
      Posted at 19:43h, 18 February Reply

      That is what everyone is told…about noel.

  • 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.

    • Janis Woolbright
      Posted at 18:54h, 19 November Reply

      January 6th is Epiphany or Three Kings Day when the arrival of the Magi to visit the Christ-child is celebrated. That might explain the Noel shouts.

    • Tim Goring
      Posted at 23:14h, 07 December Reply


  • 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.

    • Rocky Canaday
      Posted at 09:31h, 09 December Reply

      Where is this Hebrew word natalis (Noel) at in the book of Ecclesiastes as claimed in the etymology of NOEL?

  • 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


    • Rocky Canaday
      Posted at 09:39h, 09 December Reply

      I believe the word NOEL or Hebrew (NOAD EL) GOD IS BORN) is in the book ecclesiasticus,

  • Pingback:All Those Tidings | Original Evangelical
    Posted at 01:44h, 10 December Reply

    […] Noel? Now, we’re getting closer, but still, most people don’t know. […]

  • Stavroula Stamati
    Posted at 15:13h, 29 December Reply

    Janurary 6th is the ancinet date of celebration of Christmas in the first Christmas centuries.

  • Stavroula Stamati
    Posted at 15:14h, 29 December Reply

    January 6th is the old date of Christmas celebration in the ancient world.

  • Noel Reed
    Posted at 16:34h, 19 May Reply

    My first name is Noel. I was named after my mom’s maiden name “Noel”. The family came here from France, by way of Quebec, and landed in Minnesota, before coming to Yakima, Washington. My question is how do you find the records in Quebec, France and England? What’s the England involvement “Noel”?

  • Ziba Franklyn Fisher
    Posted at 15:17h, 26 November Reply

    It has been a lifetime since my study of Hebrew, so …
    “El” translates as ‘God’.
    ‘birth of God’s seems right

  • Clifton E BURTON
    Posted at 22:12h, 28 November Reply

    Ecclesiastes was written in Hebrew. It contains no reference to the birth of Christ. The Vulgate version of Ecclesiastes, which is a Latin translation of the Bible, does not even contain the word natalis, which means birth from which the word Noel is derived. Bogus scholarship!

  • Timothy Walsh
    Posted at 09:04h, 07 December Reply

    Since serious scholars understand Christ was born in late summer or early fall, Sept/Oct, why did the “Church” choose Saturnalia, the birth of the “unconquerable sun” as the day to celebrate?

  • Kristina White
    Posted at 05:49h, 10 December Reply

    Sounds good; nouvelles meaning ” news ” in French BECAUSE IT IS GOOOOD NEWS❕

Post A Comment

Skip to content