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Related to merriest: merry, inconvenient, unaccounted, making merry


In contemporary English the word "merry" means "jolly," "cheerful," "lively," or "happy." Few people realize, however, that it once meant something slightly different. At the time the English coined the phrase "Merry Christmas," merry meant "pleasant," "delightful," or "joyful." Thus, at that time, the well-known phrase "merry England" did not mean "jolly England," but rather "pleasant" or "delightful" England. When used to describe a holiday, the word "merry" signaled that it was a time of festivity or rejoicing.

In greeting one another with the phrase "Merry Christmas," the English were wishing each other a festive and joyful holiday. The sixteenth-century English Christmas carol, "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen," offers another example of this usage. Contemporary English speakers often interpret the title of this song to mean something like "God Rest You, Jolly Gentlemen." In fact, the comma separating "merry" from "gentlemen" in the original phrase tells us that in this context "merry" does not function as an adjective describing the gentlemen in question. In the sixteenth century, "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" meant "God Rest You Joyfully, Gentlemen" or, as contemporary English speakers might be more likely to say, "God Keep You Joyous, Gentlemen" (for the phrase "Merry Christmas" in differentlanguages, see Merry Christmas and Happy New Year).

Further Reading

Weiser, Francis X. The Christmas Book. 1952. Reprint. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1990.
References in periodicals archive ?
Daubed as "the merriest place to play in the UK", Jingle Bingo has something for everyone covering all levels of experience and expertise.
It perhaps provides the merriest tradition of our Christmas plants: the tradition of kissing beneath it is a remnant of its ancient association with fertility.
One said: "The merriest Christmas EVER to the men who tried to throw the lifebuoys.
The merriest of Christmases to all and the happiest of New Years.
For our part, the OT team at the AOP would like to wish readers the merriest of Christmas holidays, and say a big thank you to the contributing authors and companies that have supported OT this year.
It was sung to the tune of TheThis day for our new navigatiWe banish all cares and vexatThe sight of the barges each hohearts glads And the merriest of mortals arBirmingham lads.
com)-- Welcome the biggest and merriest season of the year at Manila's beloved restaurant and Asia Pacific's most interactive dining destination, Spiral.
Best wishes for the merriest of holidays and a happy, healthy new year
Sending you and your loved ones the merriest and warmest of wishes this festive season, The Sister team
Safo was one of the merriest, liveliest, most stubborn and mischievous dogs I have had.
And in his own way he would like to put the question of God before them, even in his merriest pieces.
But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.