from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A festive occasion, especially a lavish social event or entertainment.
  • noun Chiefly British An athletic competition, especially a swimming contest.
  • adjective Marked by lavish or festive celebration.
  • adjective Characterized by sumptuous social pleasure.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Pomp, show, or festivity.
  • noun a day of mirth and festivity; a holiday.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Celebratory; festive.
  • noun uncountable Pomp, show, or festivity.
  • noun countable A showy and festive party.

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

  • noun 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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  • 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

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

    December 17, 2007

  • See galah for further pronunciation notes.

    April 10, 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

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

    June 17, 2008

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

    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

  • :-)

    June 17, 2008

  • 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