I came across the word "Noel" in a Christmas song recently. I only knew the French word "Noël" before so I looked "Noel" up in Leo.

[Leo states]
Noel also: Noël French - used especially in refrains of carols

Are carols the only context in which "Noel" can be used without appearing out of place?


In American English, Noel is defined as

Christmas. [This word is used in Christmas songs and on cards]

In ordinary speech, it can be used as a synonym for Christmas, but would be considered a bit poetic. It is not very commonly used outside of the context of carols, cards and decorative uses (signs, headlines, ornaments).

Note that, while the diaeresis form Noël is often found on pre-printed cards and decorations, it is not commonly used in written English in the US (and is difficult to find on US keyboards).

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  • The tyranny of the typowriter is the root of many an evil, but some people still consider orthographic correctness more important than keyboard convenience, and therefore continue to write El Niño and naïve and façade and all that jazz — include Noël. – tchrist Sep 20 '13 at 15:46
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    @tchrist, others consider English to have 26 letters, rather than some undefinable number, depending on how far you go. I have no beef with ‘Noël’, but it makes no more sense than ‘Noël’; otherwise, should we also insist on eating yoğurt and kiełbasę for breakfast before skipping off to the 道場 for some 태권도? Keyboard convenience is one thing; having a clue how to read what’s written is quite another. Sacrifices must be made on both sides for either to be even moderately successful. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 20 '13 at 22:11
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: I think your second 'Noel' should be exactly that: 'Noel,' without the diarrhea--I mean diaeresis. Don – rhetorician Dec 16 '13 at 18:16
  • @rhet: You are absolutely correct, of course. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 16 '13 at 18:33
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: I'm reminded of the naïve songstress who was unaware of the pronunciation of some key words in the brothers Gershwin song, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Consequently, in performing the song for an audition she intoned: "You say 'toe may toe' and I say 'toe may toe'; you say 'poe tay toe' and I say 'poe tay toe; let's call the whole thing off," not realizing, of course, the error of her ways! More to the point, "You write Noël and I write Noël; you write naïve and I write naïve. Let's call the whole thing off"! – rhetorician Dec 17 '13 at 1:11

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