Google has a new doodle that says ’Tis the season when you put your cursor on it:

enter image description here

What is the origin of this usage? or even the contraction ’tis?


There is a popular carol called “Deck the Halls” or “Deck the Hall” that has this line. Can we say that ’Tis the season originates from this carol or does it go far back?

’Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

Urbandictionary says:

It typically refers to the time before Christmas, which can be defined as anywhere from October to December 24th.

'Tis is a contraction of it is. I think these kind of contractions are archaic but it is still used in stock uses like:

’Twas the night before Christmas
’Tis the season

Etymonline doesn’t have much to say about the origin of this contraction:

mid-15c., contraction of it is.

Is it possible to find the origin and first usage of this contraction?

  • OED just refers the inquiry to the entry for be, where many examples include it, but nothing is said specifically about it. – Brian Donovan Dec 23 '14 at 20:45
  • Actually, OED gives tys with a proclitic pronoun as Middle English (ie from around 1175), and tys as a contraction as c1475. – Andrew Leach Dec 23 '14 at 21:15

Its usage is certainly literary and archaic. NGram: curiously shows that its usage peaked in the 18th century, and decreased steadily since then. Unluckily, Ngran does not offer instances of usage earlier than the 16th century.

'TIS: (from M-W)

  • it is, ( contraction).

  • Origin - First Known Use: 15th century

'TIS ( from Wiktionary)

  • (literary or archaic, also occasionally colloquial) It is.

    • ’Tis the season to be jolly. — Popular Christmas song (Deck the Halls).

    • ’Tis good ta’ ’ave ya back boy! (to have you)

    • 1597, William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1: Mercutio [wounded]: "No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door; but 'tis enough, 'twill serve: ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man."

    • 1844, Charles Dickens, The Chimes, Chapter III: It looks well in a picter, I've heerd say; but there an't weather in picters, and maybe 'tis fitter for that, than for a place to live in.

Ngram 'tis, 'twere, 'twas.

Literary quotations with 'tis:

George Eliot:

  • “'Tis God gives skill, but not without men's hand: He could not make Antonio Stradivarius's violins without Antonio.”

William Shakespeare:

  • “If it were done when 'tis done, then t'were well it were done quickly.”

George Washington:

  • “'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”

Robert Browning:

  • “'Tis not what man does which exalts him, but what man Would do!”

Emily Dickinson:

  • “Anger as soon as fed is dead; 'Tis starving makes it fat.”

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