8 Words for Celebration
A masquerade is a festive gathering of people wearing masks or other disguises, often elegant, historical or fantastic in nature. Writers have been dazzled by masquerade balls since the term entered English in the late 1500s ultimately from the Italian mascherata. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet the "star-crossed lovers" meet at a masquerade. Edgar Allan Poe also uses a masquerade as a plot-propelling device in his 1842 short story "The Masque of the Red Death."
A fete is a festive celebration. It comes from the French word of the same spelling, meaning "feast." Its counterpart in Spanish is fiesta. Fetes sometimes have religious associations, but not always.
A shindig is a large party, usually with dancing. An Americanism that emerged in the mid-1800s, it might be influenced by the earlier terms shindy and shinty. Shindig is a portmanteau of shin and dig, no doubt referring to the movements of the legs while dancing.
During the Enlightenment, it became popular for leading thinkers of society, from artists and musicians to philosophers and politicians, to gather together in the home of an intellectual for an afternoon or evening of lively conversation. Salon comes from the French term meaning "lounge." In the late 1600s, salon began to refer to a well-furnished room in a home, designed for entertaining guests.
Though less common than shindig, wing-ding is another term to describe a party. A rhyming reduplication of wing, this term evokes the flapping motion of a bird’s wing. When it first entered English in the 1920s, it was an Americanism to describe a fit of rage, though by the 1940s, it could also refer to a wild party.
When English speakers started using the term clambake in the 1830s, they were referring to an outdoor party in which clams were cooked, traditionally on hot stones. Over time, the word took on a more general sense of a "picnic"--no clams required. By the 1930s, clambake could be extended to refer to any type of lively social gathering, even one that didn't feature food as a focal point.
In the United States, a prom is a formal dance held at the end of high school, usually for seniors. It was first used in English in the late 1800s, and is a shortening of the word promenade, which comes from the French meaning "a leisurely stroll." A promenade could also refer to the march of guests into a ballroom during a formal ball. In the UK, prom is used to refer to promenade concerts in which some of the audience stands.
A soiree is a party held in the evening, especially one held for a particular purpose. English speakers have been holding soirees since the late 18th century, when the term entered the language from the French soir meaning "evening." Soiree ultimately comes from the Latin sērus meaning "late."
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