Was watching this yesterday evening and reading the subtitles. Now is it me--in 70 years of singing this carol I have never seen 'Noel' spelt 'Nowell'. Has the sub-title editor lost it or just ignorant. Apologies if this spelling is a proper variant. FF to 30mins 30 secs. click here
The English language is a wonderful thing, liberally sprinkled with words that have their roots elsewhere.
Noël comes from the French for Christmas, and undoubtedly Nowell is a middle English spelling form. Some say the carol originated in Cornwall, but whatever the truth it's been The first noël for a long time.
Noël has its root in 'natalis', the Latin word for birth. Expectant mothers get prenatal care, and then there's that girl called Natalie.
uk-wizard Thanks for the moral support! Woolwell Just as well the subtitles didn't read 'O Well, O Well' as per V.4 in your link or I would definitely have thought I was losing it! Interesting link though. Used to go round the houses with our church carol singing group in our youth. With a bit of luck we were occasionally invited in for a mince pie. Don't seem to get that now. Or do we?
The French spelling, Noel, is now the standard in English rather than the older Nowell. "Nowell" first appears in the English medieval masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1340-1400.) Its derivation is likely from the French for "new" i.e., nouvelle. Probably, as the ordinary phrase, nouvel an (new year) became contracted in particular reference to the festival, it soon thereafter developed the spelling of Noel as a designation for the feast day.