I am interested in knowing when the term "Nativity" came into popular use for Christ's Advent and what are its origins.

  • looking at books.google.com/ngrams/… I'd say about 1625, but this is usage in books and its less than a tenth of a percent so it isn't exact
    – depperm
    Jan 4, 2017 at 16:47
  • The phrase "nativity of Jesus" (with minor sp. variation) is attested in Middle English, but so is "nativity" with reference to the births of John the Baptist and Mary. Am I correct in assuming that such details aren't relevant, since you are focusing here on when "the nativity," by itself, came to be understood as referring to the birth of Christ? Jan 4, 2017 at 17:20
  • 2
    General uses of "nativity" could be interesting, especially those biblical, as they set a pattern for "The Nativity." However, you are correct that I am most interested in how it became "The Nativity."
    – Don Jewett
    Jan 5, 2017 at 1:32

1 Answer 1


In Catholic culture it comes from the Latin.

"Festum Nativitatis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi" (the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ) and the shorter form, "Dies Natalis Domini" (the Birthday of Our Lord).

From these Latin names most nations obtained their popular terms for the Christmas feast: "Il Natale" in Italy, "La Navidad" in Spain, "Natal" in Portugal, "Nadal" in southern France, "Nadolig" in Wales (and probably the Gaelic "Nollaig," as well). The Greek "Genethlia" means "Nativity," as do the names for Christmas in Hungarian ("Karacsony") and in most of the Slavic languages: "Boze Narodzenie" (God's Birth) in Polish; "Rozhdestvo Khrista" (Christ's Birth) in Russian and Ukrainian.

The French word Noel can be explained as either coming from the Latin "natalis" (birthday) or from the word "nowel" which means "news." In an old English Christmas verse the angel says:

I come from hevin to tell The best nowellis that ever befell.

It is possible that both explanations are right. "Noel" and "nowel" may be words of different origin that have become identical in meaning because they are pronounced the same. - History & Origin: Feast of the Nativity

The year 336 seems to be the first recorded date of Christmas at Rome.

The Nativity stories of Matthew and Luke are prominent in the gospels and early Christian writers suggested various dates for the anniversary. The first recorded Christmas celebration was in Rome in 336. - Wikipedia

Etymologically the word nativity came into use in the 12th century:

nativity (n.) c. 1200, from Old French nativité "birth" (12c.), from Late Latin nativitatem (nominative nativitas) "birth," from Latin nativus "born, native" (see native (adj.)). Late Old English had nativiteð, from earlier Old French nativited. - Dictionary.com, etymonline.com


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