Merry

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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 classic literature ?
This must be some prodigal who hath sold his father's land, and would fain live merrily while the money lasts.
And others said, "He is some prodigal that hath sold his land for silver and gold, and meaneth to spend all right merrily.
Then all sat down and feasted and drank merrily together until the sun was low and the half-moon glimmered with a pale light betwixt the leaves of the trees overhead.
00pm Exhausted by her own demons, battling anyone else's is the last thing Merrily wants to do.
DRAMA Now convinced that a Satanic group is at work, Merrily and her mentor Huw are trying to predict their next move.
MIDWINTER OF THE SPIRIT ITV, 9pm This new supernatural drama is sure to raise goosebumps, as it follows the work of Merrily Watkins, one of the few women priests working as an exorcist.
dRaMa MIDWINTER OF THE SPIRIT STV, 9pm MERRILY Watkins is not your average country vicar.
MIDWINTER OF THE SPIRIT (ITV, 9pm) MERRILY Watkins is not your average country vicar - for starters, the first words you'll hear her utter you wouldn't repeat in front of your grandmother.
WE LOVE DRAMA MIDWINTER OF THE SPIRIT (ITV, 9pm) MERRILY Watkins is not your average country vicar - for starters, the first words you'll hear her utter you wouldn't repeat in front of your grandmother.
But single mum Merrily (her philandering ex husband was killed in a car crash), doesn't exactly have her 16-year-old daughter Jane on board with her latest interest in the paranormal.

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