Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Nativity

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is nativity. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Nativity is most commonly used in its capitalized form to refer to the birth of Jesus, but it can also be used as a synonym of birth meaning “the process or circumstances of being born,” and to one’s place of origin. In astrology nativity refers to the horoscope at or of the time of one’s birth.

// My favorite Christmas decorations as a child were the ceramic figurines of the Nativityscene, especially the donkey with the gentle eyes. 

// Having emigrated from Finland when she was only a toddler, Anna was excited to finally travel to Helsinki, the city of her nativity.

NATIVITY in Context

“‘Black Nativity’ is an African-American telling of the nativity story, based on the song play written by African-American poet and playwright Langston Hughes. The first act of the show recreates the journey of Mary and Joseph, resplendent in African costumes, to Bethlehem, accompanied by old-fashioned spirituals.” — Carolyn Cunningham, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 27 Sept. 2022

Did You Know?

Nativity is one of many words born of the Latin verb nāscī, which means “to be born.” The gestation of the word was a long one. Nāscī developed in Late Latin into nativitas, meaning “birth,” which passed through Anglo-French as nativité before entering English in the 14th century. Nativity has many siblings and cousins in our language; other terms of the lineage of nāscī include natureinnatenascentnative, and renaissance.

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