Word of the Week

Hogmanay (hog’ma-nay):

The last day of the year, when children traditionally went from house to house asking for presents. It also refers to a small cake given to children on New Year’s day.  More recently it has become a raucous New Year’s Eve party in many Scottish cities.

Usage:  The traditional Hogmanay includes “first footing,” welcoming a tall, dark stranger at the stroke of midnight. First-footers should bring a gift such as uisge beatha “water of life” (Scotch, it’s a drink, not a nationality *snort*), a lump of coal, or a bannock, a simple oat cake. This tradition reaches back to the Viking era, when the blond, blue-eyed Vikings brought only bad luck to whomever they visited. Today groups of friends gather and visit other friends. Whichever party you join this year, look out for the accent on the final syllable of today’s word.

Suggested Usage:
If you would like to add a bit of innovation in your end-of-the-year greetings, try “Merry Christmas and a Happy Hogmanay!” for a change. If you go to the Hogmanay street party in Edinburgh or Glasgow, though, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to hear you.

The sense of “Hogmanay” corresponds to that of Old French aguillanneufau gui l’an neuf! “(kiss) under the New Year’s mistletoe.” Others speculated that “hogmanay” itself comes either from the Anglo-Saxon haleg monath “holy month” or Gaelic oge maidne “new morning.” “the last day of the year, new year’s gift.” In modern French dialects it survives as “aiguilan,” “guilané,” and “guilanneau” but in Normandy it is “hoguignettes” or “hoguinané,” whence it probably invaded Scottish English. The French term survives today in the phrase au gui l’an neuf! “(kiss) under the New Year’s mistletoe.” Others speculated that “hogmanay” itself comes either from the Anglo-Saxon haleg monath “holy month” or Gaelic oge maidne “new morning.”

Hear it.


8 responses to “Word of the Week

  1. Your post reminded me that I forgot to switch the flags on the front of the house from Danish for Christmas to Scottish for Hogmanay! I hope me and my husband’s Scottish ancestors don’t haunt us! 🙂

    At least we rang in the New Year with the last of a verrrrry good bottle of Scotch we bought in the UK .

  2. So glad to see you’ve posted. And, I was actually wished a Happy Hogmanay by Mike.

    And, I’m very shocked you don’t know much Gaelic. I’ve seen there is a new movement to resurrect it due to the fact that it’s dying out.

    You’ve also got other good Scottish words here like bannock. You could even mention Bannockburn – just for me.

  3. We lowlanders don’t really speak it. Only in recent years have they been teaching Gaelic to kids in school.

  4. is it wrong that i could listen to you talk for hours?

  5. Happy new year 🙂 We have a very un Scottish night in the house with no drunking antics. Hope you have had a good one

  6. I love your language lessons! This sounds like a great celebration.

  7. Happy New Year.
    Edinburgh threw it’s usual hoolie for Hogmanay – and attempted to break the world record for number of people singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’!

    Whilst most of my food was consumed… why is it, when my family insist on me making industrial quantities of Black Bun waaay back in November – no-one ACTUALLY eats it at Hogmanay?!

  8. We had a good Hogmany this year. It was greeted with open arms in my parents home. What a bloody year that was! We were going to go to Stonehaven for the fireballs but it was far too cold and we had to be up for our traditional sunrise in the morning… that’s when the sun always rises, I know!

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