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Gather Around The Table With These 15 Thanksgiving Words

The language of Thanksgiving

How well do you speak the language of Thanksgiving? This popular holiday is known for food, family, and football, but it’s also a holiday with its own unique set of vocabulary words that can be used to describe everything from the foods on the table to the celebratory festivities. Many Thanksgiving words have surprising meanings and origins. Some were even taken from classical mythology. Before the big holiday arrives, read through this word list to brush up on your Thanksgiving vocabulary and get some interesting trivia to share when you sit down with family and friends at the dinner table.

bounty

bounty

Bounty means “a generous gift.” It’s a synonym of abundance, which is a central theme of the modern Thanksgiving celebration. Many see the holiday as an opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the bounty of food, friends, and family they’re grateful to have surrounding them. Bounty is frequently used to refer to gifts from nature or gifts seen as coming from God, rather than simply gifts from another person. The first recorded use of bounty took place in the 1200s, and it comes from the Latin bonitās, meaning “goodness.”

 

Do you know the difference between a lot, allot, and alot? Read about them here.

dressing

dressing

Dressing is the next word on our Thanksgiving word list. Or should we say stuffing? The debate over these terms has raged for decades, but really, they’re pretty similar. Dressing refers to “stuffing for a fowl.” It’s thought to have become a popular alternative to the word stuffing during the Victorian era. Prior to that time, dressing mostly referred to the act of preparing a fowl for roasting. These days, dressing or stuffing are both acceptable terms for the popular seasoned breadcrumb side dish, and which word you use probably depends on which region of the US you live in.

cornucopia

cornucopia

A cornucopia overflowing with pumpkins and other vegetables is one of the more popular images associated with Thanksgiving, but do you know where the concept of a cornucopia comes from? The answer is mythology. In classical mythology, a cornucopia is “a horn containing food, drink, etc., in endless supply, said to have been a horn of the goat Amalthaea.” Cornucopias are associated with Thanksgiving because they’re symbols of abundance. The word cornucopia was first recorded in English in the late 1500s from the Late Latin cornū cōpiae, meaning “horn of plenty.”

turkey trot

turkey trot

These days, it’s common for a 5K race that takes place on the morning of Thanksgiving to be called a Turkey Trot, but did you know the turkey trot is actually a dance? The term turkey trot is an Americanism that dates back to the 1830s, and it refers to a dance done by couples to ragtime music that involves “a springy walk with little or no bending of the knees, and accompanied by a swinging motion of the body with shoulder movements up and down.” The dance was most popular during World War I, but it sounds to us like it’s due for a revival as a holiday TikTok dance trend.

harvest

harvest

Thanksgiving is a celebration that takes place during the harvest season. Harvest, of course, means “the gathering of crops.” Though most of us do our harvesting at the grocery store these days, rather than on a farm, Thanksgiving is often celebrated as a last big feast before the leaner winter months set in. The word harvest was first recorded before 950. It comes from the Old English hærfest, a cognate with the German Herbst, meaning “autumn.”

 

Discover more about the connection between harvest and the season of autumn here.

gratitude

gratitude

On Thanksgiving, people give thanks. Another way to say that is that people express their gratitude. Gratitude is “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful,” and it’s a word that’s been around for quite a long time. Gratitude first appeared in English in the early 1400s. During Thanksgiving, some people express their gratitude through daily social media posts, by going around the holiday table to say what they’re thankful for, or by doing charitable acts. The theme of gratitude carries throughout much of the holiday season.

 

Learn more about the language of thanks by reviewing these gratitude synonyms.

gourd

gourd

Few things symbolize fall quite like a gourd. The word gourd can be used to describe “the hard-shelled fruit of any of various plants,” though it’s important to note that a gourd is not quite the same thing as a squash. Pumpkins, zucchini, and butternut squash are all types of squash. Gourd typically describes decorative varieties of squash that aren’t eaten. The word gourd dates back to the end of the 13th century. The Middle English spelling included both gourde and courde, which originally comes from the Old French cöorde.

tradition

tradition

Traditions are an important part of Thanksgiving. Every family has their own favorite dishes, games they play, and plans for the holiday. What makes these things traditions are the way they’re carried out holiday after holiday. Tradition is “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.” Each Thanksgiving, families practice their traditions and pass them on to younger generations, and that’s a part of the magic of the holiday.

drumstick

drumstick

If you battle your relatives over who gets the turkey drumsticks on Thanksgiving, this one is for you. Drumsticks, as in “the meaty leg of a chicken, duck, turkey, or other fowl,” get their name because of their resemblance to an actual drumstick, or “a stick for beating a drum.” As it turns out, people have been noticing the similarities between the two objects for a very long time. The word drumstick has been used to describe the legs of cooked fowl since at least the late 1600s.

pie 

pie 

Is pie the best part of Thanksgiving? We’d be willing to bet a lot of people would say yes. Pie is, of course, “a baked food having a filling of fruit, meat, pudding, etc., prepared in a pastry-lined pan or dish and often topped with a pastry crust.” Not only is it a beloved food, but it also has a pretty interesting etymology. It’s thought that the word pie is related to the Latin pica, which means “magpie,” possibly in relation to the bird’s habit of collecting miscellaneous objects.

Friendsgiving

Friendsgiving

Thanksgiving isn’t only for celebrating with your family. It’s also a time to gather with your chosen family. In recent years, Friendsgiving has grown in popularity as “a gathering of friends to celebrate Thanksgiving with a feast, falling near or on Thanksgiving Day.” Since many people travel to visit family for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving is a way to connect with dear friends who may not be near on the actual Thanksgiving holiday. The term has grown in popularity throughout the 2000s and 2010s, thanks to the Internet.

gather

gather

Most holidays are about gathering together, but this is especially true for Thanksgiving. The entire holiday is predicated on being with people you care about and sharing a meal together. Gather means “to bring together into one group, collection, or place,” and it’s been in use since before the year 900. Gather comes from the Middle English gaderen, a derivative of the Old English geador, which means “together.”

 casserole

 casserole

Casseroles make great Thanksgiving side dishes, but do you know why they’re called casseroles? The word casserole refers to “a baking dish of glass, pottery, etc., usually with a cover,” as well as “any food cooked in such a dish.” The food actually gets its name from the pan it’s cooked in. Casseroles are popular one-pot dishes in modern times, but the word has been in use in English since the 1700s. It comes from the French word for “ladlelike pan.”

 

Take a turn in the kitchen after you review these essential tools for a delicious Thanksgiving feast.

turducken

turducken

Turkey is the standard Thanksgiving food, but we can’t forget about the legendary turducken. What’s a turducken, you ask? Well, it’s “a deboned turkey that is stuffed with a deboned duck that is stuffed with a deboned chicken.” The word turducken is a portmanteau, a blended word made from the parts of other words. Interestingly, it isn’t the only Thanksgiving main dish alternative that’s also a portmanteau. The word tofurky is a blend of the words tofu and turkey.

food baby

food baby

At the end of Thanksgiving dinner, you might find yourself with a food baby. A food baby is “the bloated appearance of the stomach area after eating a large amount of food, giving the person the appearance of being pregnant.” In other words, you might say you have a food baby when you’re feeling very, very full. As you can probably guess, this one originated as Internet slang. It’s been in use—on Thanksgiving and during any other event that involves lots of yummy food—since the late ’90s.

Take the quiz

Are you feeling like a Thanksgiving word expert now? Then it’s time to challenge yourself with our Thanksgiving word quiz! Answer all 10 questions correctly for a perfect score. You can even save this word list to challenge your friends and family on Thanksgiving day and see whose holiday word knowledge reigns supreme.

The foods of the season can feed your appetite and your language—just take a look at these food idioms.

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