Definition of wassail in English:

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


[mass noun]
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
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Over the centuries, various ceremonies and rituals developed around the tradition of drinking wassail.
1.1Lively and noisy festivities involving the drinking of plentiful amounts of alcohol; revelry: I arrived in Eastcheap, that ancient region of wit and wassail
More example sentences
  • Last week the news item about the forthcoming wassail on this Wednesday, December 12, said that Warrenpoint Town Hall was the venue.
  • 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.


[no object]
1Drink plentiful amounts of alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way: he feasted and wassailed with his warriors
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
1.1 [with object] historical (In SW 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
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • It's a general description of nineteenth-century English Christmas customs, including wassailing and guising, apparently taken from published accounts.
  • Every man, woman and child seems to be out wassailing - bar one.
  • 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.



Example sentences
  • They are usually sanitized and sentimentalized versions of the often rowdy, disruptive, and inebriated wassailers who wandered from house to house in the holiday season, singing, being fed, and sometimes threatening mischief.
  • The wassailers customarily carried bowls of the hot drink, wassail, and offered sips to prospective donors.
  • The room where the wassailers will assemble needs to have greenery as decoration.


Middle English wæs hæil 'be in (good) health!': from Old Norse ves heill (compare with hail2). 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.

  • In the Middle Ages wassail was a drinking toast that literally meant ‘Be in good health’. The polite reply was drinkhail, ‘Drink good health’. Both words come from Old Norse, and were probably introduced by Danish-speaking inhabitants of England. By the 12th century they were considered by the Normans to be characteristic of Englishmen: in a work of 1190 the English students at the university of Paris are praised for generosity and other virtues, but are said to be too much addicted to ‘wassail’ and ‘drinkhail’. The second half of each toast is related to the Old English words hale (Old English), as in hale and hearty, hail (Middle English) to greet’, and whole (Old English).

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Line breaks: was|sail

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