Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

More yule-ish words

More yule-ish words

Last week we considered the yule-ish words jolly, egg-nog, wreath & yule. This week we’ll head into the holiday season, with a few more yule-related words.

The Proto-Germanic word for basil or mistletoe (as if basil is anything like mistletoe) made its way into Old English, where it was combined with a word meaning twig to become our modern word mistletoe. Druids were big fans of hanging mistletoe in celebration of their winter rites, & as Christianity spread, the practice continued. We typically don’t discuss the Druids’ activities under the mistletoe, but the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe appears to have established itself sometime in the 1800s. 

The word menorah entered the English language in 1886. It came from a Hebrew verb meaning to give light, to shine. Menorah shares a Semitic root with minaret, which appeared in English in the 1680s from Arabic through Turkish & French. 

And two yule-related words we don’t typically associate with eating came from words referring to either the act of eating or the food itself. Creche made its way into English in 1892 from Old High German through Old French. In Old French, creche meant a crib, manger, or stall, but creche’s source word (the Old High German one) referred to the fodder the critters ate while in a crib, stall or manger — their food. Speaking of mangerin the 1300s the French word mangier, meaning to eat, gave birth to the English word manger in much the same way. Once more, critters in a manger eat. 

And though most of us would rather not think about it, when truly little critters of the mite variety munch away on the larger critters in the manger, we employ another word based on the French verb to eatmange!

May your holiday festivities involve mistletoe, menorahs, creches & mangers and altogether avoid mange.

Please leave any comments int he comments section.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Merriam Webster,, the OED, &


  1. I love it that minarets and menorahs are basically the same thing. We are all one! :-)

    When people tell the Christmas story, they don't usually mention that the baby Jesus was put to rest in what was basically the food bowl for the animals in the barn. And nobody ever asks the sheep how they felt about a kid lying in the middle of their dinner.

  2. I bet those swaddling clothes were covered in oats!

  3. Amazing how a small bed and food bowl have the same origin. Kind of creepy, actually. Maybe that's where saying to little babies, "I could just eat you up!" came from. Now, that's really creepy. Happy Yuletide!

  4. Creepy, true, but I kind of like it! Thanks for popping by, Christine.