Definitions

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

  • noun A salutation or toast given in drinking someone's health or as an expression of goodwill at a festivity.
  • noun The drink used in such toasting, commonly ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar.
  • noun A festivity characterized by much drinking.
  • intransitive verb To drink to the health of; toast.
  • intransitive verb To engage in or drink a wassail.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To drink to the health or prosperity of: as, to wassail the apple (an old custom on Christmas eve).
  • To drink healths; carouse.
  • noun The salutation, toast, or form of words in which healths were formerly pledged in drinking, equivalent to ‘health,’ or ‘your good health,’ now in use.
  • noun A festive occasion or meeting where drinking and pledging of healths are indulged in; festivities; a drinking-bout; a carouse.
  • noun The liquor used on such occasions; specifically, ale, mixed with a smaller amount of wine, sweetened and flavored with spices, fruit, etc.
  • noun A merry drinking-song.
  • noun Synonyms Revel, Debauch, etc. See carousal.

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

  • noun An ancient expression of good wishes on a festive occasion, especially in drinking to some one.
  • noun An occasion on which such good wishes are expressed in drinking; a drinking bout; a carouse.
  • noun The liquor used for a wassail; esp., a beverage formerly much used in England at Christmas and other festivals, made of ale (or wine) flavored with spices, sugar, toast, roasted apples, etc.; -- called also lamb's wool.
  • noun obsolete A festive or drinking song or glee.
  • intransitive verb To hold a wassail; to carouse.
  • adjective Of or pertaining to wassail, or to a wassail; convivial.
  • adjective a bowl in which wassail was mixed, and placed upon the table.
  • adjective a cup from which wassail was drunk.

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

  • noun A toast to health, usually at a festival.
  • noun The beverage served during a wassail.
  • noun Revelry.
  • verb transitive To toast, to drink to the health of another.
  • verb intransitive To drink wassail.
  • verb To go from house to house at Christmastime, singing carols.

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

  • verb celebrate noisily, often indulging in drinking; engage in uproarious festivities
  • noun a punch made of sweetened ale or wine heated with spices and roasted apples; especially at Christmas
  • verb propose a toast to

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, contraction of wæshæil, be healthy, from Old Norse ves heill : ves, imperative sing. of vera, to be; see wes- in Indo-European roots + heill, healthy; see kailo- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old Norse ves heill ("be healthy!"), from the imperative of vesa ("to be") + heill ("healthy"). The earliest documented use of the term is from 1275.

Examples

  • The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon greeting waes hael, which meant “be well.”

    Christmas Feast

  • The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon greeting waes hael, which meant “be well.”

    Archive 2008-12-01

  • He was apt to tell me when he had been sitting up all night, whether in study or what he called wassail; but I could always guess the fact from his appearance.

    A Romantic Young Lady

  • And each meeting meant a drink; and there was much to talk about; and more drinks; and songs to be sung; and pranks and antics to be performed, until the maggots of imagination began to crawl, and it all seemed great and wonderful to me, these lusty hard-bitten sea - rovers, of whom I made one, gathered in wassail on a coral strand.

    Chapter 16

  • And each meeting meant a drink; and there was much to talk about; and more drinks; and songs to be sung; and pranks and antics to be performed, until the maggots of imagination began to crawl, and it all seemed great and wonderful to me, these lusty hard-bitten sea - rovers, of whom I made one, gathered in wassail on a coral strand.

    Chapter XVI

  • Glögg is similar to a variety of historical mulled wines, such as wassail and gluwein.

    12 Days of Bacon: Day Twelve « TV BACON

  • For hot "wassail", use orange koolaid the church's brand is best....but you can't buy it with a pinch of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of cloves in it, then heat it.

    Archive 2007-02-01

  • For hot "wassail", use orange koolaid the church's brand is best....but you can't buy it with a pinch of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of cloves in it, then heat it.

    Hot Cocoa

  • Yuletide "wassail", can be derived from his having "powlert up and down" in a county abounding with comfortable manor houses and cosy inns.

    Dickens-Land

  • There is something barbaric, I suppose, in the British customs still -- something that reminds one of their ancient condition when the Romans conquered them -- when their supreme idea of enjoyment was to have an ox roasted whole before them while they drank "wassail" till they groveled under their own tables in a worse condition than overfed swine.

    Vendetta: a story of one forgotten

Comments

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  • According to Robert Gayre, in Brewing Mead: Wassail! In Mazers of Mead (with Charlie Papazian) probably derived from an old English toast along the lines of "wachs heil," or to your health; the response was, he says, "drinc heil". From thence to the drink itself.

    September 7, 2008

  • Decent account here, including recipe.

    December 16, 2009