Ninguid is a term derived from ningius, the Latin word for snow. So, if a landscape is ningiud, it means it is snow-covered. And if trudging through snow is a familiar experience for you over the holiday season, you might also want to know the old Scots word meggle, which means to walk laboriously through snow.
If your family has a tradition of spending the holidays somewhere far-away and warm, then you hiemate. You probably heard of the word hibernate, which means sleeping through winter. Hiemate, which sounds similar, means to spend winter somewhere.
Like many words related to the festive period, the word "yule" comes from Old English. It originally evolved from an ancient Scandinavian word, jol, standing for a series of festivities celebrating the end of the year. A yuleshard, sometimes also referred to as yulejade, is a person who leaves a lot of work to be done on Christmas Eve night, instead of trying to finish everything well before Christmas.
Everyone will be very happy to see you if you’re doniferous because it means you’re carrying a gift. The act of offering a present was originally a religious custom referring to a donation of money or goods to the church. Since the 15th century, it’s been used more loosely to refer to the action of offering any kind of present or donation, to anyone.
Since we’re on the topic of gifts and donations, a gratuity intended to be specifically spent on drinks is called a pourboire. It literally means “for drink” in French.
This one is an old Scots word for a large quantity of drink brewed for a special occasion, and Christmas in particular. In the 18th century, a bummock was also the name of a party given by landlords to their tenants at Christmastime.
Probably distantly related to scour or scourge, scurryfunge is a term meaning ‘to lash’ or ‘to scour’, which first appeared in the late 18th century. By the mid-1900s, however, the meaning shifted from scrubbing something clean, to ‘hastily tidying the house’ before the arrival of unexpected company.
The word quaaltagh was borrowed from Manx, the Celtic language spoken on the Isle of Man - a tiny island located halfway between Britain and Ireland in the Irish Sea. It is a festive tradition on the Isle of Man the first person you see (or the first to enter your house) on Christmas or New Year morning will have some bearing on the events of the year to come. And in Manx culture, the person you meet on that early-morning encounter is called the quaaltagh.
Nowadays, the first person that enters your home on New Year’s morning is called a first footer. However, in old Yorkshire folklore, the term used was a lucky bird.
The traditions related to lucky birds differ depending on the region. Just like the quaaltagh, the identity of the lucky bird has bearing on your fortune in the year to come. Men were considered the most fortuitous lucky birds, depending on region, either dark-haired or light-haired men might be favored. Other regional variations claimed the man had to be a bachelor, had to bring a gift of coal or whisky, and/or had to have a high arch on the foot.
Did you ever roll a snowball through a field of snow and it slowly got bigger and bigger? Well, if you did, you might be glad to learn that this action has a name, and it’s hogamadog, according to the English Dialect Dictionary, the 1905 edition.
This unfortunately long-lost 19-century word means ‘a total devotion to enjoying yourself’. It is derived from the Greek word ‘to enjoy’. Undoubtedly, we could all use some apolausticism this holiday season.
First appearing around the 1500s, belly cheer, or belly timber was used to describe both gluttonous eating and fine food.
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