‘Merry Christmas’ in European languages

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

The following map shows how to say (or rather write) the equivalent of “Merry Christmas” in European languages (not all minority languages are included this time because the map would be too cluttered otherwise). The colouring corresponds to etymological relations between the translations of the word Christmas (i.e. not to language families and not to relations between other parts of the phrase).

This leads to a few unexpected results. Even though Romanian and Hungarian are completely unrelated languages, the words karácsony and Crăciun come from a common root (either Proto-Slavic *korčiti or Latin creātiōnem).

The Irish, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic words are all borrowed from Romance languages and are related to French Noël. The same holds true for the Turkish expression, which is directly borrowed from French.

Something quite unusual happens in Czech and Slovak. The word Vánoce resp. Vianoce is derived from German Weihnachten by retaining the “Weih” part (which comes from an old Germanic expression meaning “holy”) and replacing nachten (“nights”) by the Czech/Slovak translation, “noce”. However, the word “noce” itself comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root as German “Nachten” (and English “nights”), so the Czech/Slovak and German expressions are essentially etymologically equivalent.

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Here are the same phrases as above as a text so that you can copy-paste them:

Albanian: Gëzuar Krishtlindjet
Basque: Eguberri on
Belarusian: з Калядамі or з Божым Нараджэннем
Breton: Nedeleg laouen
Bulgarian: Весела Коледа or Честито Рождество Христово
Catalan: Bon Nadal
Croatian: Sretan Božić
Czech: Veselé Vánoce
Danish God jul or Glædelig jul
Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest
English: Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas
Estonian: Häid jõule
Finnish: Hyvää joulua
French: Joyeux Noël
Galician: Bo Nadal
German: Fröhliche Weihnachten or Frohe Weihnachten
Greek: Καλά Χριστούγεννα
Hungarian: Boldog karácsonyt
Icelandic: Gleðileg jól
Irish: Nollaig Shona + Dhuit (singular) or Daoibh (plural)
Italian: Buon Natale
Latvian: Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus
Lithuanian: Linksmų Kalėdų
Luxembourgish: Schéine Chrëschtdag
Macedonian: Среќен Божиќ or Христос се роди
Maltese: il-Milied it-Tajjeb
Norwegian: God jul
Northern Sami: Buorre juovla
Romanian: Crăciun fericit
Occitan: Bon Nadal
Polish: Wesołych Świąt (Bożego Narodzenia)
Portuguese: Feliz Natal
Russian: с Рождеством (Христовым)
Scottish Gaelic: Nollaig Chridheil
Serbian: Srećan Božić or Hristos se rodi
Sardinian: Bona Pasca de Nadale
Slovak: Veselé Vianoce
Slovene: Vesel božič
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God jul
Ukrainian: з Різдвом (Христовим)
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

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