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[kar-uh l] /ˈkær əl/
a song, especially of joy.
a Christmas song or hymn.
a seat in a bay window or oriel.
a compartment in a cloister, similar to a carrel.
a kind of circular dance.
verb (used without object), caroled, caroling or (especially British) carolled, carolling.
to sing Christmas songs or hymns, especially in a group performing in a public place or going from house to house.
to sing, especially in a lively, joyous manner; warble.
verb (used with object), caroled, caroling or (especially British) carolled, carolling.
to sing joyously.
to praise or celebrate in song.
Origin of carol
1250-1300; Middle English carole ring, circle (of stones), enclosed place for study (see carrel), ringdance with song (hence, song) < Anglo-French carole, Old French *corole (compare Old Provençal corola), apparently < Latin corolla garland (see corolla), conflated with Latin choraula < Greek choraúlēs piper for choral dance, equivalent to chor(ós) chorus + -aulēs, derivative of aulós pipe
Related forms
caroler; especially British, caroller, noun
outcarol, verb (used with object), outcaroled, outcaroling or (especially British) outcarolled, outcarolling.
uncaroled, adjective
uncarolled, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for carolling
Historical Examples
  • The day was breaking, and already the birds were carolling to the rising sun.

  • From the library came the carolling sweetness of Piney's tenor.

    Sally of Missouri

    R. E. Young
  • It was the carolling of her few words, so free and unconcerned in tone.

  • There we detect him carolling loud and cheerfully, like a robin.

    Bird Neighbors Neltje Blanchan
  • Let it sing, for it is like a joyous bird, carolling on ze topmost bough.

  • Two girls were capering and carolling behind the footlights.

    Port O' Gold

    Louis John Stellman
  • He paused: the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly rustling.

    Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
  • Birds were flitting from spray to spray, carolling their hymns of praise to Deity.

    Lectures on Language William S. Balch
  • The sweet, soothing, melodious chimes, carolling forth the Bay of Biscay.

    The Argosy Various
  • Diana stood frowning as Geraldine passed along, carolling at the pitch of her voice.

British Dictionary definitions for carolling


a joyful hymn or religious song, esp one (a Christmas carol) celebrating the birth of Christ
(archaic) an old English circular dance
verb -ols, -olling, -olled (US) -ols, -oling, -oled
(intransitive) to sing carols at Christmas
to sing (something) in a joyful manner
Derived Forms
caroler, caroller, noun
caroling, carolling, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old French, of uncertain origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for carolling


masc. proper name, from Medieval Latin Carolus (see Charles). As a fem. proper name, an abbreviation of Caroline. The masc. name never has been popular in U.S.; the fem. form was common after c.1900 and was a top-10 name for U.S. girls born 1936-1950.



c.1300, "to dance in a ring," from Old French caroler, from carole (see carol (n.)). As "to sing" from late 14c. Related: Caroled; caroling.



c.1300, "joyful song," also "dance in a ring," from Old French carole "kind of dance in a ring, round dance accompanied by singers," perhaps from Medieval Latin choraula "a dance to the flute," from Latin choraules "flute-player," from Greek khoraules "flute player who accompanies the choral dance," from khoros "chorus" (see chorus) + aulein "to play the flute," from aulos "reed instrument" (see alveolus). The meaning "Christmas hymn of joy" is attested from c.1500.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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