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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 ?
Even that dim light is now withdrawn, relinquishing the whole domain of Merry Mount to the evening gloom, which has rushed so instantaneously from the black surrounding woods.
Yes, with the setting sun, the last day of mirth had passed from Merry Mount.
We rather doubt his identity with the priest of Merry Mount.
It groaned with a dismal sound; it showered leaves and rosebuds upon the remorseless enthusiast; and finally, with all its green boughs and ribbons and flowers, symbolic of departed pleasures, down fell the banner staff of Merry Mount.
They went heavenward, supporting each other along the difficult path which it was their lot to tread, and never wasted one regretful thought on the vanities of Merry Mount.
The Merry Widow" operetta - Cairo Opera House facebook page CAIRO -- 20 February 2018: "The Merry Widow", an operetta by Franz LehEir, will be presented in the Arabic language at the main hall of the Cairo Opera House.
Trump also tweeted a video showing him and the First lady wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
it's that time of the year again a Black Friday sales, chaotic shopping trips, busy social calendars and then, of course, the perennial debate over Merry Christmas vs.
Summary: Washington DC (USA) December 1 (ANI): President Donald Trump has wished the people of United States of America Merry Christmas and said that the God's love is for all of humanity.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas" she draws upon her impressive artistry and expertise to create a bright, slider board book for children ages 2 to 5 that simply bursts with energy and cheering illustrations.
A LEISURE extension containing a cinema and new restaurants is set to be built at the Merry Hill centre.
The Honourable Mlanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, today announced $600,000 in funding for the Ville de Magogs redevelopment of Merry House, a historical residence located in the heart of Magog.