from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A festive occasion, especially a lavish social event or entertainment.
  • n. Chiefly British An athletic competition, especially a swimming contest.
  • adj. Marked by lavish or festive celebration: a gala ball after the inaugural ceremony.
  • adj. Characterized by sumptuous social pleasure: the gala life of the very rich.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Celebratory; festive.
  • n. Pomp, show, or festivity.
  • n. A showy and festive party.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Pomp, show, or festivity.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Festivity; festive show.
  • n. A textile fabric made in Scotland.
  • n. Festal attire; one's best clothes: as, to be in gala.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a gay festivity


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Italian and French, both ultimately from Old French gale, rejoicing, from galer, to make merry; see gallant.



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  • Hardly a sacrifice not to eat meat for 40 days, particularly for those who couldn't afford it anyway! But this was more of a saying goodbye to the good times. After Lent, when the hens started laying again, was the time of Easter Eggs, well before Easter was hijacked by the Church.

    June 17, 2008

  • :-)

    June 17, 2008

  • Well simply that "meat" or "flesh" is not usually associated with merry-go-rounds and ferris wheels... Giving up meat for Lent is a fairly traditional "sacrifice," but again, celebrating one's sacrifices seems a bit incongruous and dark for a child's entertainment. Of course back in the day, kiddies weren't protected from reality, so it was no big thing, just like gallows events. Disney has done horrible things to our children in shielding them from truth.

    Then again, chili con carne is just not chili worth bothering with. *wink*

    June 17, 2008

  • An alternative etymology is carnem levare, which basically means the same.

    June 17, 2008

  • Where's the gruesomeness in carnival? That is from "carne vale" - goodbye to meat, at the start of Lent.

    June 17, 2008

  • Back in the good old days when public executions were common occurrences and even celebrations... this was originally a "gallows" event, which was shortened and eroded down to "gala" over time. A rather gruesome origin for such a cheerful term, rather like "carnival."

    June 17, 2008

  • See galah for further pronunciation notes.

    April 10, 2008

  • Yes, it was a big secret until WeirdNet had to go and blab. ;-)

    December 17, 2007

  • I always thought this word should be pronounced "GAA luh" or maybe "GAH luh," but "GAY luh" sounded wrong to me. Then, WordNET cleared it up, and all is well again.

    December 17, 2007