Mardi Gras

[ mahr-dee grah, grah ]
/ ˈmɑr di ˌgrɑ, ˈgrɑ /

noun

the day before Lent, celebrated in some cities, as New Orleans and Paris, as a day of carnival and merrymaking; Shrove Tuesday.
a pre-Lenten carnival period climaxing on this day.

Origin of Mardi Gras

1690–1700; < French: literally, fat Tuesday

historical usage of Mardi Gras

Just about everyone knows that Mardi Gras, “fat Tuesday” in French, is closely associated with the gaudy blowout in New Orleans, Mardi Gras being the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent, the 40 days of prayer, fasting, and all-night partying that is so typical of New Orleans.
The day is so named from the French custom of parading a fat ox ( bœuf gras ) during the celebration of the holiday (one wonders what became of the ox). French Mardi comes from the Latin phrase Martis diēs “Mars’s day,” so named after Mars, the planet and deity of the third day of the week according to Hellenistic astrology. Gras is problematical: it ultimately derives from Latin crassus “thick, stout, plump,” and one would therefore expect cras, but French has gras, Italian grasso, Spanish and Portuguese graso, all showing g-, not c-.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mardi gras

  • Then another entertainment, a sort of mardi-gras maigre feast, was a champagne tea given for us at the Capitol by Mr. Blaine.

    The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912|Lillie DeHegermann-Lindencrone
  • My daughter is sending down a counterpart of her own wedding-dress for your bride of the Mardi-Gras.'

    The Chaplet of Pearls|Charlotte M. Yonge
  • The Mardi-Gras dance had been like a hideous dream to Rachael.

    The Heart of Rachael|Kathleen Norris

British Dictionary definitions for mardi gras

Mardi Gras
/ (ˈmɑːdɪ ˈɡrɑː) /

noun

the festival of Shrove Tuesday, celebrated in some cities with great revelry

Word Origin for Mardi Gras

French: fat Tuesday
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

Culture definitions for mardi gras

Mardi Gras
[ (mahr-dee grah) ]

An annual festival held in France on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” — meaning it is the last opportunity to eat rich food before the fast of Lent begins. It is related to celebrations elsewhere, called “carnivals,” from the Latin words carne and vale, “meat” and “farewell,” meaning a farewell to meat before the abstinence of Lent.

notes for Mardi Gras

New Orleans, Louisiana, is famous for its Mardi Gras celebration, as is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.