Thanksgiving Words and Their Stories

I won’t be blogging until after the holiday, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with the origins of a few common Thanksgiving words. Use them to impress your family and friends.


Pilgrim. The word “pilgrim” can be traced back through French and Latin to mean foreigner. The pilgrims who left England were foreigners known as“Puritans” because they wanted to purify the Church of England from its many rituals. []

Indian Corn. Native Americans taught the pilgrims how to grow different varieties of corn, not just yellow corn, but red, blue, pink, black, spotted, banded, striped . . . This colorful and decorative corn became known as Indian Corn. []

Cornucopia. The word “cornucopia” is from two Latin words “cornu” and “copia” meaning horn of plenty. The idea of a horn of plenty comes from Greek mythology. The horn was that of the goat nymph, Amalthaea, whose milk was fed to baby Zeus. In time, the cornucopia became a symbol of abundance. []

Wishbone. The word’s origin is uncertain, but the concept of snapping a turkey’s wishbone might date back to the Etruscans, an ancient Italian civilization that used chicken wishbones to foretell the future. This practice was known as “alectryomancy” which can be loosely defined as rooster divination[]

Turkey. Before the turkey got its name here in America, it was known as “gallina de la tierra” — land chicken—and, most likely, Columbus’ crew named it. When the pilgrims arrived, they were confused because in England the bird was called a turkey, possibly because it came to England via Turkish explorers. []

Not so common is the word “Thanksgivikkuh“. Oxford Dictionaries listed this as a contender for its 2013 Word of the Year. The word means the rare convergence of the first day of Hanukkah falling on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, 2013, was a Thanksgivikkuh year. []

Sarah-Josepha-HaleAnd did you know that our American Thanksgiving holiday is because of an editor and author?

Sarah Josepha Hale was a 19th-century poet and magazine editor, (and you know her work! She wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). Sarah believed that Thanksgiving should be a national holiday, like the Fourth of July. She petitioned the government for almost 40 years asking them to officially declare a Thanksgiving Day. It was Abraham Lincoln who finally set the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving, and in 1941 America’s Congress made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday.

So, thank you, Sarah Josepha Hale, for a day off to eat turkey and give thanks.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for you, my readers. I’m grateful that you take time to stop by and read my posts, grateful for your visits to my Facebook Fan Page and my web page, and grateful to count you as my friends.

I wish you and yours a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I’ll see you back here in December.

(You might also enjoy “Guess Who’s Coming to my Thanksgiving Dinner.”)


*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.


Filed under thanksgiving, unusual words, word origins, words

2 responses to “Thanksgiving Words and Their Stories

  1. klelange

    I am thankful for you as well! You are a blessing, and it’s fun to get to know you through your posts and social media. Taking a break till after Thanksgiving as well. Enjoy the break, and thanks so much for sharing this post. 🙂


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