Noel has been in English since the 13th century as a forename and family name (e.g., Nuwel, Nuuel) for those born or baptized on Christmas or during the Christmas season. In the late 14th century, Nowel is used as an exclamation of joy in The Canterbury Tales (this usage remains only in Christmas carols). In the late 14th century alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green knight, Nowel meant “Christmas day, the feast of Christmas, Christmastide.” Middle English shows several spellings, e.g., Newel, Nouel, Nowelle, Nowel, all derived from Anglo-French, Middle French, and Old French forms (Nowel, Nowelle, Nouel, Noel), Noel in French. The spellings with 0 (e.g., Noel) are a variant of spellings with a (e.g., Nael) that began in the 12th century. Nael is a regular French development from Latin natalis (in full, dies natalis “birthday”).
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