Definition of wassail in English:



  • 1Spiced ale or mulled wine drunk during celebrations for Twelfth Night and Christmas Eve.

    • ‘They were made from c. 1660 but were probably intended for punch or wassail like their treen counterparts.’
    • ‘Over the centuries, various ceremonies and rituals developed around the tradition of drinking wassail.’
    • ‘They put away their coats and sat in the living room sipping wassail.’
    • ‘Trust me when I say that those of you drinking wassail made only from apple juice, or having a fruitcake that hasn't been drowned in brandy are missing out on something exquisite.’
    • ‘Imagine what it would be like doing business if your operation was designed to be an authentic historical recreation, down to the beverage menu that greeted customers with such obscure offerings as shrub, nog and wassail.’
    1. 1.1 Lively and noisy festivities involving the drinking of plentiful amounts of alcohol; revelry.
      • ‘Last week the news item about the forthcoming wassail on this Wednesday, December 12, said that Warrenpoint Town Hall was the venue.’
      • ‘With political, social, and religious turmoil raging only miles away, he created in his poetry a lively and animated world in which he sings of may-poles yielding to hock-carts that, in turn, make way for wassails and wakes.’
      • ‘It just goes to show that for all the Falstaffian wassail, there's nothing quite like a gory shank from nave to chaps to get the punters in.’
      wild party, debauch, carousal, carouse, revel, revelry, bacchanalia, bacchanal, saturnalia, dionysiacs
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  • 1no object Drink plentiful amounts of alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way.

    • ‘After 1800, this Christmas misrule took on a nastier tone, as young and alienated working-class New Yorkers began to use wassailing as a form of rambling riot, sometimes invading people's homes and vandalizing their property.’
    • ‘A history like this and it took them 40 odd years to get rid of the Red Army; probably too busy wassailing to notice, I shouldn't wonder.’
    • ‘Before enclosures, festivals were vigorously convivial; they were ‘off-licence’ times, drunken, licentious and rude, from midsummer ales to apple-tree wassailing, to May Day's liaisons.’
    • ‘They dominate nearly half the tavern's area, loudly drinking, singing, boxing, and otherwise wassailing to the extent that almost nothing else can be heard or done by others.’
    drink and make merry, go on a drinking bout, go on a binge, binge, binge-drink, overindulge, drink freely, drink heavily, go on a pub crawl, go on a spree
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  • 2Go from house to house at Christmas singing carols.

    ‘here we go a-wassailing’
    • ‘It's a general description of nineteenth-century English Christmas customs, including wassailing and guising, apparently taken from published accounts.’
    • ‘Every man, woman and child seems to be out wassailing - bar one.’
    • ‘Forms of worship will be exempt under the law but, together with traditional forms of music like wassailing, music events held in churches will not.’
    • ‘Snuggled away in other cottages, you'll find chestnut sellers and storytellers, mummers and madrigal singers - to really get into the spirit of the thing, you could wassail your way from door to door.’
    • ‘It's an old tradition, which, along with wassailing and mumming, we have performed over the years in and around Skipton, and many people, especially those young in heart, enjoy the music and dance in which all are invited to participate.’
    sing, trill, chorus, warble, chirp, pipe, quaver, chant, intone
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Middle English wæs hæil ‘be in (good) health!’: from Old Norse ves heill (compare with hail). The drinking formula wassail (and the reply drinkhail ‘drink good health’) were probably introduced by Danish-speaking inhabitants of England, and then spread, so that by the 12th century the usage was considered by the Normans to be characteristic of Englishmen.