The first nowell the angel did say
The first nowell the angel did say. Traditional folk carol. First published by Davies Gilbert* in the Second Edition of Some Ancient Christmas Carols (London 1823). It had nine stanzas, and the words were more irregular than the version now in general use. It is an Epiphany carol: although it begins with the shepherds, its main theme is the visit of the Magi, ending in the original version with a moralizing verse.
The usual derivation of ‘Nowell’ is from the Old French ‘Nouel’, modern French ‘Noel’ from the Latin ‘natalis’, meaning ‘belonging to a birth’ (as in ‘Dies natalis’ meaning ‘birthday’). It is however also possible that the word should be linked with ‘novellare’ and ‘nouvelle’ with...
Cite this article
If you have a valid subscription to Dictionary of Hymnology, please log inlog in to view this content. If you require a subscription, please click here.