Definition of wassail in English:


Pronunciation /ˈwɒseɪl//ˈwas(ə)l//ˈwɒs(ə)l/


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

    ‘a mighty bowl of wassail in which the apples were hissing and bubbling’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They put away their coats and sat in the living room sipping wassail.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1 Lively and noisy festivities involving the drinking of plentiful amounts of alcohol; revelry.
      ‘I arrived in Eastcheap, that ancient region of wit and wassail’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Last week the news item about the forthcoming wassail on this Wednesday, December 12, said that Warrenpoint Town Hall was the venue.’
      wild party, debauch, carousal, carouse, revel, revelry, bacchanalia, bacchanal, saturnalia, dionysiacs
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[no object]archaic
  • 1Drink plentiful amounts of alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way.

    ‘he feasted and wassailed with his warriors’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    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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    1. 1.1historical with object (in south-western England) drink to (fruit trees, typically apple trees) in a custom intended to ensure a fruitful crop.
      ‘it is the custom, in the cider districts of Sussex, to wassail the apple trees’
      • ‘The local custom of apple-tree wassailing might be of interest to either group after its mention in the bestselling novel set in Herefordshire.’
  • 2Go from house to house at Christmas singing carols.

    ‘here we go a-wassailing’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 a general description of nineteenth-century English Christmas customs, including wassailing and guising, apparently taken from published accounts.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Every man, woman and child seems to be out wassailing - bar one.’
    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.