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Valentine's Day

or Valentines Day or Valentine Day

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noun

February 14, observed in honor of St. Valentine as a day for the exchange of valentines and other tokens of affection.

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Red roses, heart-shaped candy boxes, fancy dinner reservations—how did all of these come to signify romance on February 14th?

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Also called Saint Valentine's Day.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What is Valentine's Day?

Valentine’s Day is a holiday that’s popularly observed as a day to celebrate love, especially by those in romantic relationships.

Valentine’s Day is traditionally observed by exchanging gifts or cards called valentines.

It can also be spelled Valentines Day. It’s sometimes called Valentine Day. It’s sometimes shortened to just Valentine’s or informally referred to as V Day.

It’s sometimes called Saint Valentine’s Day since the day is also the feast day of Saint Valentine in the Catholic Church. However, Valentine’s Day is typically observed as a secular (nonreligious) holiday (most people are unaware of its connection with a saint).

When is Valentine's Day?

Valentine’s Day takes place on February 14 every year.

In Catholicism, February 14 is the feast day of Saint Valentine.

More information and context on Valentine's Day

The name of Valentine’s Day can be traced back to the observance of the feast day of Saint Valentine. There are at least two saints named Valentine, one of whom became a martyr around the year 270 CE. The name Valentine comes from a Latin word meaning “strength.”

There are many legends about it, but it’s ultimately unclear how Valentine’s Day became associated with the tradition of exchanging the affectionate gifts and love notes that we call valentines. One of the first known mentions of Valentine’s Day as a day celebrating romance comes from Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1375 poem Parliament of Foules (Fowls), in which he connects the day to the widespread belief of the time that February 14 was the start of the mating season for birds.

Valentines are often intended as a declaration of love, but they can also be given as a gesture of friendship. Valentines are commonly exchanged by romantic partners, or given by someone who wants to show affection to or romantic interest in the recipient. But they can also be exchanged by family members and friends—children might make valentines for their parents and school students sometimes give valentines to all of their fellow classmates on Valentine’s Day, for example.

The classic version of a valentine is a card shaped like a heart, but they can come in many forms. Valentine messages can be serious or humorous or silly.

The word valentine can also refer to the person to whom a valentine is given (or the person who gives it), or to a person’s date or romantic partner on Valentine’s Day. Asking someone to be your valentine typically conveys romantic interest—it most commonly means you want them to be your date for Valentine’s Day. However, this is not always the case.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Valentine’s Day?

How is Valentine's Day discussed in real life?

Valentine’s Day is typically seen as a lighthearted holiday. Some people object to the holiday for what they view as its focus on material goods (and the commercialization that comes with this), or for other reasons, such as singling out single people.

 

Try using Valentine's Day!

True or False?

Valentine’s Day is only observed by romantic couples.

HOMEWORK HELP

What is Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is an annual holiday recognized around the world. It celebrates romantic love, making it a popular day for couples to spend together. Valentine’s Day is traditionally associated with red hearts, romance, flowers, candy or other sweet things, and the exchange of cards or messages, called valentines, that express love.

How is term pronounced?

valuhn-tahynz dey ]

Where does Valentine’s Day come from?

The story of Valentine’s Day dates back to the life of St. Valentine, a Roman Catholic martyr who died in the third century. Although the facts of St. Valentine’s life are murky (some sources say he was persecuted for performing forbidden marriages, while others say he helped Christians refugees escape Roman violence), he is consistently presented as a moral, generous, and romantic person. One legend holds that St. Valentine became friendly with his jailer’s daughter and wrote her a note signed “From your Valentine,” which remains a popular phrase associated with Valentine’s Day.

There is some controversy over how Valentine’s Day first became associated with romance and the celebration of lovers. Some scholars point to Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century poem, The Parliament of Fowls, which praises Valentine’s Day as a time when birds choose their mates and love is remembered even in the cold of winter. Others believe Valentine’s Day is the Christian version of a pagan fertility holiday called Lupercalia, which was celebrated by the Romans.

Either way, the romantic meaning of Valentine’s Day has existed since the Middle Ages, and gained popularity as a gift-giving event for aristocrats in 18th-century England and America. The first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were created by Esther Howland in the 1840s. Since then, a large industry has developed around the making and selling of Valentine’s Day products like flowers, cards, and candies.

More examples of Valentine’s Day:

“Most people agree that Valentine’s Day is a good, if somewhat random, opportunity to shower loved ones with affection. At the same time, people also seem to resent the holiday’s obligatory nature.”
—Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, February 14, 2014

“The National Retail Federation said Americans were projected to spend $18.2 billion, or an average $136.57 per person, on things like candy, flowers, cards and fancy dinners for Valentine’s Day this year.”
—Liam Stack, The New York Times, February 14, 2017

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for Valentine's Day

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