Wednesday, December 21, 2011


TileHead’s Word of the Day for 21 December 2011

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YULETIDE  (n. pl. -S)

  1. (n.) the modern season of Yule, extending roughly from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day
  2. (n.) any of a number of winter festivals, traditionally celebrated on the winter solstice or in December or January

Useful information for game players:
  • Front hooks: (none)
  • Back hooks: -S
  • Anagrams: (none)
  • Longer extensions: (none)
  • Wraparounds: (none)
  • Other Spellings: (none)
  • Related Forms: YULE

The winter solstice marks the official start of winter.  For those in the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs this year at 5:30 a.m. UT (Universal Time, i.e. Greenwich time) on December 22nd.  That means that it will occur at 12:30 a.m. on the 22nd for those in the Eastern time zone, at 11:30 p.m. on the 21st for those in the Central time zone, and so on.

The YULETIDE season is closely associated with the winter solstice.  The word YULE derives from Old English geol and further from Old Norse jol, the name of an ancient pagan festival held near the winter solstice.  Over time Christian authorities altered the meaning of the term to correspond to the 12-day feast of the Nativity and eventually to the holiday now known as Christmas.  The timing of and many customs associated with the Christmas season was also influenced by Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival held around the time of the winter solstice, and by other ancient pagan rituals.  (Because of the legendary rowdiness of the ancient Roman festival, the noun SATURNALIA, along with the adjective SATURNALIAN and the adverb SATURNALIANLY, can also be used to refer to any "celebration marked by unrestrained revelry.")

The TIDE portion of today’s word, incidentally, comes from the Old English tid, meaning “a portion of time,” a sense still retained in a number of other old-fashioned temporal words: EVENTIDE, HOLYTIDE, NOONTIDE, NIGHTTIDE, SPRINGTIDE, and WINTERTIDE.

This week’s theme: Wintry words

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