Christmas Carol Vocabulary and Facts

December 10, 2008 at 2:29 pm 1 comment

Some hard to understand words I hope to go over with my family this Christmas.  I collected this information to remind me of carols and words of  Christmas they ask questions about.  I thought you might enjoy it as well.  I may use these for family devotionals each night in the evenings leading up to Christmas around the fire as we pull out a figure for the nativity scene each night.  I’ll add links to the words of each song, or the tunes, if I can find them as I go, but I thought I’d go on and post this much.

Noel, as in “The First Noel, the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay…”

Noel (or noël, sometimes spelled nowell for the English pronunciation) refers either to the Christmas celebration or a Christmas carol. The word comes from the French word Noël meaning “Christmas” which derives from the Old French word noël, a variant of nael. The Latin origin is the word natalis (birth“). It may also be from the Gaulish words “noio” or “neu” meaning “new” and “helle” meaning “light” referring to the winter solstice when sunlight begins overtaking darkness.[citation neededsource

in excelsis deo: the highest degree according to Webster’s dictionary  “In excelsis deo” from Angels We Have Heard on High

Gloria in excelsis Deo” (Latin for “Glory to God in the highest”) is the title and beginning of a hymn known also as the Greater Doxology (as distinguished from the “Minor Doxology” or Gloria Patri) and the Angelic Hymn.[1]

The name is often abbreviated to Gloria in Excelsis or simply Gloria.

It is an example of the psalmi idiotici (“private psalms”, i.e. compositions by individuals in imitation of the Biblical Psalter) that were popular in the second and third centuries. Other surviving examples of this lyric poetry are the Te Deum and the Phos Hilaron.[2]


Tidings: greetings

Orient: as in “We Three Kings of Orient Are”

The countries of Asia, especially of eastern Asia.  source

Boughs: as in “boughs of hally, fa la la la la la la la la”

A tree branch, especially a large or main branch.  source

Lo! :  As in “Lo!  I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people” from the gospel of Luke in the Bible.  It is not “Yo!” from modern rapping, though it sounds similar.

Pronunciation: (lō), [key]

look! see! (frequently used in Biblical expressions; now usually used as an expression of surprise in the phrase lo and behold ).  source

O Tannenbaum: or, in its English version, O Christmas Tree is a Christmas carol of German origin. source

Hark! of Hark_the_Herald_Angels_Sing

To listen attentively.

idiom:hark back

  1. To return to a previous point, as in a narrative.  SOURCE
  2. (originally titled “Shchedryk”)

Herald: A person who carries or proclaims important news; a messenger.  source

Auld Lang Syne

The times gone past; the good old days.   source

Realm: from “Angels from the Realms of Glory”

1. A community or territory over which a sovereign rules; a kingdom.
2. A field, sphere, or province: the realm of science. See Synonyms at fieldsource



a. A salutation or toast given in drinking someone’s health or as an expression of good will at a festivity.
b. The drink used in such toasting, commonly ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar.
2. A festivity characterized by much drinking.  source

Carol of the Bells

    c and Ukrainian lyrics written by Mykola Leontovych, 1916words: (English) Peter Wilhousky, 1936
    sometimes called the “Bulgarian Carol” (although of Ukrainian origin)

Gabriel: of the Christmas story

In the Bible, an angel who explained signs from God and announced the conception, birth, and mission of Jesus to Mary.  source

Good King Wenceslas” is a popular Christmas carol about a king who goes out to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (the second day of Christmas, December 26). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by the heat miraculously emanating from the king’s footprints in the snow. The legend is based on life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (907-935), known in the Czech language as Svatý Václav.

I Saw Three Ships (click to listen)

I Saw Three Ships is a traditional and popular Christmas carol from England. Some sources assert that this song is “an upbeat variant of Greensleeves“, which has a similar meter. The earliest printed version is from the 17th century, possibly Derbyshire source


See Immanuel.

God with us; – an appellation of the Christ. (N.)  source

Dismay: of “let nothing you dismay” from God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen”Carol of the Bells“(note:  my favorite carol this year)

1. To destroy the courage or resolution of by exciting dread or apprehension.
2. To cause to lose enthusiasm; disillusion: was dismayed to learn that her favorite dancer used drugs.
3. To upset or alarm.



Merry Christmas: What Christians, or those who follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, tend to say to one another, as opposed to the more generic “Happy Holidays” or “Warmest Seasons Greetings”.   It is getting harder and harder to find those cards that have this specific greeting.  Yesterday, I bought my own stamp to keep from  having to refuse so many generic cards to friends and family.  I still love them all cards…I just like mine to say “Merry Christmas!”  I wouldn’t want my family to say “Happy September” on my birthday…I want to hear “Happy Birthday!”  And likewise, when it’s Christmas, I want to say “Merry Christmas!”


Entry filed under: Everyday.

Free Streaming Guitar Christmas Music — Soothing Prayer Request for MomQ and Pop

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. bellissimanh  |  December 11, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I love the idea of pulling out one nativity figure each night! We’re celebrating Advent right now with Bartholomew’s passage… and loving it! It’s really helping us to stay focused on Jesus being the reason for the season. Merry Jesusmas! 🙂

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Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary of the American Language defines Magnanimity as such:

MAGNANIM'ITY, n. [L. magnanimitas; magnus, great, and animus, mind.] Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.[1] (Source: Wikipedia)



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