Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


And so the marriage-bells rang on, with all their merriness, with all their joy.

Laura contributed whatever of merriness there was to the home-coming feast.

Ingigerd portrayed this with inimitable grace, innocence and merriness.

The action was to cover with a veneer of merriness a question which it embarrassed him to ask.

Jim's smile flashed and Penelope wondered what she liked best about it, his white teeth, his merriness or his wistfulness.

The merriness of the trip seems subdued, and the frivolous chattering is hushed altogether.

They attracted all who loved laughter and merriness and a loving caricature of country-folk,—and who do not?

He lost his merriness, and somewhat of his loudness, and became sullen; and the wolf always was shrewdly near the door.

He, besides, possessed all that merriness and jocularity which I have often observed among a number of the males of his race.


Old English myrge "pleasing, agreeable, pleasant, sweet; pleasantly, melodiously," from Proto-Germanic *murgijaz, which probably originally meant "short-lasting," (cf. Old High German murg "short," Gothic gamaurgjan "to shorten"), from PIE *mreghu- "short" (see brief (adj.)). The only exact cognate for meaning outside English was Middle Dutch mergelijc "joyful."

Connection to "pleasure" is likely via notion of "making time fly, that which makes the time seem to pass quickly" (cf. German Kurzweil "pastime," literally "a short time;" Old Norse skemta "to amuse, entertain, amuse oneself," from skamt, neuter of skammr "short"). There also was a verbal form in Old English, myrgan "be merry, rejoice." For vowel evolution, see bury (v.).

The word had much wider senses in Middle English, e.g. "pleasant-sounding" (of animal voices), "fine" (of weather), "handsome" (of dress), "pleasant-tasting" (of herbs). Merry-bout "an incident of sexual intercourse" was low slang from 1780. Merry-begot "illegitimate" (adj.), "bastard" (n.) is from 1785. Merrie England (now frequently satirical or ironic) is 14c. meri ingland, originally in a broader sense of "bountiful, prosperous." Merry Monday was a 16c. term for "the Monday before Shrove Tuesday" (Mardi Gras).


Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.