May Day

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the first day of May, long celebrated with various festivities, as the crowning of the May queen, dancing around the Maypole, and, in recent years, often marked by labor parades and political demonstrations.


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Origin of May Day

Middle English word dating back to 1225–75

Other definitions for May Day (2 of 2)

[ mey-dey ]
/ ˈmeɪˌdeɪ /

the international radiotelephone distress signal, used by ships and aircraft.

Origin of Mayday

1925–30; <French (venez) m'aider (come) help me!
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is May Day?

May Day is the first day of May—observed by some as a holiday in celebration of springtime and by others as a day honoring workers and commemorating the labor movement.

May Day celebrations related to the coming of spring often involve several traditions originating with ancient Celtic religious practices, including the crowning of a May queen and dances around a Maypole, a tall pole decorated with flowers and ribbons.

When May Day is observed as a day to honor workers, it is often marked by parades and political demonstrations. This day is sometimes Labour Day, International Workers’ Day, or simply Workers’ Day. In the U.S., the holiday known as Labor Day occurs on the first Monday in September.

The distress call Mayday is not related to May Day (the distress call originates from a simplified spelling of the French term m’aidez, meaning “help me”).

When is May Day?

May Day is always on May 1.

Where does May Day come from?

The first records of the term May Day come from the 1200s. The word May refers to the month.

May Day is associated with the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane, which marked the beginning of summer and is now observed in Scotland and Ireland on May 1. Like other springtime festivals with Pagan origins, May Day involves traditions based on fertility rituals and reverence for nature.

May 1 became associated with workers and the labor movement in the late 1800s when the date was chosen to commemorate labor protests at Haymarket Square in Chicago in 1886.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing May Day?

How is May Day discussed in real life?

The name May Day is used for two observances—one celebrating spring and the other honoring workers and the labor movement. In some places, May 1 is called Labour Day, Workers’ Day, or International Workers’ Day.

Try using May Day!

True or False?

The date of May Day varies from year to year.

How to use May Day in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for May Day (1 of 2)

/ (ˈmeɪˌdeɪ) /

the international radiotelephone distress signal

Word Origin for Mayday

C20: phonetic spelling of French m'aidez help me

British Dictionary definitions for May Day (2 of 2)

May Day

  1. the first day of May, traditionally a celebration of the coming of spring: in some countries now observed as a holiday in honour of workers
  2. (as modifier)May-Day celebrations
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