When I was asking you all for suggestions of holiday words or traditions you’d like to learn more about, someone suggested “Noel.” I knew this was the French word for Christmas, but I admit that’s where my knowledge ended, so it was fun to learn more!

Noel does indeed come to English through the French, and the French word means “Christmas.” But more literally, noel is from the Latin nael, a variation of natalis, which means “birth day.” In Church Latin, this word was used exclusively for the birth of Christ.

We can see other words with this same root in natal and nativity. I knew where those two came from, but it didn’t occur to me that noel was from a variation of the same word. So there we have it!