late 14c., nowel, nouel "Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity," from Old French noel "the Christmas season," variant of nael, from Latin natalis (dies) "birth (day)," used in Church Latin in reference to the birthday of Christ, from natus, past participle of nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci), from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget." The modern word in English, with the sense "a Christmas carol" (1811) probably is a separate borrowing from French. As a masc. proper name, it is from Old French, probably literally "of or born on Christmas."
updated on July 02, 2019