Presidents’ Day Word Origins

Presidents’ Day is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday in February and it originally honored George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays were February 22nd and 12th, respectively. The holiday came about because of the so-called Monday Holiday Law of 1968, which became effective in 1971 and moved a number of federal holidays to Mondays so that workers had a number of long weekends throughout the year. The day now celebrates all U.S. presidents. The phrase Presidents' Day came into existence in 1952.

Around 1375, the word president came into English to describe the appointed or elected head of a province, colony, division of a country, city, or other body of persons. The term evolved in use and was applied in religion, in education, etc. before its first use for the officer holding executive power in a modern republic, starting in the United States in 1774. In 1789, The Constitution of the U.S. stated, "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years." The word president came through French from Latin praesidere 'to preside.'

Emancipate means "to free from legal, political, social control or restraint by others" and "to free from bondage." The word's Latin elements are manus 'hand' and capere 'to take' and first meant "to release or set free." U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's most famous act was the Emancipation Proclamation, the edict he issued on January 1, 1863, that freed the slaves of the Confederate states which had rebelled against the Union.

The word assassin has one of the most interesting etymologies. In a nutshell, assassin derives from an Arabian word meaning "hashish user." Some religious fanatics (Shia Muslims) during the time of the Crusades (13th century) ate hashish to intoxicate themselves before going out to murder Christian leaders. The word came to mean "one who commits murder, especially one who murders a political leader."

Patriot is from Latin patriota "fellow countryman" (from earlier Greek pater "father") and this was its original meaning when it came into English in the late 1500s. Soon thereafter, it described a person who is willing to sacrifice his or her well-being for that of his or her country. It also means, "one who loves and defends a country's freedom or interests."

A country or nation is an independent state, often one having a common language, culture, history, and set of institutions, especially political. nation and country. Both words came into English c 1330. These words tend to be used interchangeably. Some may argue that country describes a self-governing political entity while nation means a tightly-knit group of people which share a common culture. Country comes from Latin contrata (terra) "the landscape in front of one, the landscape lying opposite to the view." Nation is from Latin nation-/natio "race, class of person. The word national did not appear until the late 16th century.

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