Word Geek – Christmas words of the month

Christmas bauble

To get us all in the festive spirit Word Geek has a bumper-pack of Christmas themed words for us this month.


The word ‘bauble’ is one we’ll all be familiar with. It’s one of the Christmas decorations we normally adorn our Christmas trees with, which is traditionally a spherical shape. It is thought the origins of the word bauble are a blend of French and English. In Middle English babulle was very similar to the Old French word bauble.

In French, a bauble was something a child would play with and in English something that would swing to and fro. The word could also be used in reference to a baton with a weighted object on the end, which jesters would be seen using as an emblem.

Nowadays we just refer to baubles as Christmas decorations which hang on trees but in the past they’ve also been used by both English and American writers to describe something which was elaborately decorated. For example Charles Dickens used it in his novel Bleak House to describe a ‘rich bauble of a casket’.


The word tinsel is said to originate from the Latin word ‘scintilla’ which means ‘a spark’ which then evolved into the Old French words ‘estinceler’ (later ‘étinceler’) meaning ‘to sparkle’ and ‘estincele’ (later ‘étincelle’) meaning ‘spark’ where the late Middle English word ‘tinsel’ derived from. It was used to describe a fabric which was interwoven with metallic thread.

From the 1590s, tinsel was recorded as meaning ‘very thin strips of shiny metal’ and indeed decorative tinsel used to be made from thin strips of silver and later cheaper metals, such as lead. From the 1650s, the more figurative meaning emerged, relating to ‘anything showy with little real worth’ which is a meaning not often referred to in the UK in modern times.


In the UK we refer to advent most frequently when describing our advent calendars which count down from the first of December to Christmas Day. This word also derives from Latin where the words ‘ad’ meaning ‘to’ and ‘venire’ meaning ‘come’ were combined to form the Latin words ‘advenire’. This later progressed into the word ‘adventus’ which evolved into the word ‘advent’ we know today and refers to the period of time before Christmas.

Christmas around the world

Not all of our clients and translators celebrate Christmas so don’t forget if you’re planning international market research take a look at our ‘when not to do market research’ infographic to see public holidays around the world. Stay tuned for our 2017 updated version coming soon so you can plan your research around times of cultural importance in other countries.


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