[ noh-el for 1, 2; noh-uhl, nohl for 3 ]
/ noʊˈɛl for 1, 2; ˈnoʊ əl, noʊl for 3 /
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(lowercase) a Christmas song or carol.
a male given name.
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Origin of Noel

First recorded in 1805–15; from French Nöel, ultimately from Latin nātālis (diēs) “birthday”; see natal
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does Noel mean?

Noel is another word for Christmas, the Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity.

Most Christians celebrate the holiday on December 25, but it is celebrated on January 7 in the Orthodox Church due to the use of a different calendar.

Christmas is also widely observed in secular (nonreligious) ways. Popular activities include the decoration of a Christmas tree and the exchange of gifts.

However, the word Noel is often used in a religious context. It’s possible for people to wish each other a Happy Noel, but the word is perhaps most commonly seen written on things like Christmas cards and decorations.

The word can also be used to refer to a Christmas carol or song (in which case it is not capitalized), but is no longer commonly used this way.

Fittingly, most people know the word from the popular Christmas carol “The First Noel.”

Example: We wish you and your family a joyous Noel!

Where does Noel come from?

The first records of the word Noel in English come from the early 1800s. It comes from French Nöel—the French way of saying Merry Christmas is Joyeux Noël. 

The word derives from Latin word nātālis (diēs), meaning “birthday.” Another name for Christmas is Nativity. Both Nativity and Noel reference the birth of Jesus and ultimately come from the Latin verb nāscī, meaning “to be born.” The English word natal (meaning “relating to a person’s birth”) is also based on this root.

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How is Noel used in real life?

Noel is usually used on things like Christmas cards and decorations. Most people know the word from the Christmas carol “The First Noel.”


Try using Noel!

Is Noel used correctly in the following sentence?

We gather here today to celebrate Noel, the Nativity of our Lord.

How to use Noel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Noel



/ (nəʊˈɛl) /

(esp in carols) another word for Christmas
(often not capital) rare a Christmas carol

Word Origin for Noel

C19: from French, from Latin nātālis a birthday; see natal 1
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