Noce

Noce /nɔs/ is a French word I learnt last night meaning “wedding” (ceremony) or wedding party. Here are some examples of usage:

- être de la noce – to be (a member) of the wedding party, to be among the wedding guests
- être de noce – to be invited to a wedding
- aller à la noce de quelqun – to go to somebody’s wedding
- repas/robe/nuit de noce – wedding banquet/dress/night
- noce d’argent / d’or etc – silver/golden wedding
- fare la noce – to live it up / have a wild time
- il n’était pas à la noce – he wasn’t enjoying himself / was have an uncomfortable time
- il n’avait jamais été à pareille noce – he’d never been so happy / he was having the time of his life

Noce, sounds like the Welsh word for night nos, so when I first heard it I thought nights and not weddings were being discussed. It comes from the Latin word nuptiae (wedding/marriage), which is derived from nubere (to veil/hide) – this goes back to a Roman custom that married women wore veils. Nuptiae is also the root of the English word nuptial (to marry; to speak of a wedding; wedding), and of the French word nuage (cloud).

An alternative to noce is mariage, which can refer both to the institution of marriage and the marriage/wedding ceremony. The English word wedding comes from the Old English węddian (to wed), while marriage comes from the French mariage.

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This entry was posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Welsh, Words and phrases.

5 Responses to Noce

  1. phyl says:

    Is it usually plural (“noces”)?

    There was a good French-Canadian movie years ago called “Les Noces de Papier.”

  2. Petréa Mitchell says:

    If that’s so, I’d guess that the Spanish for cloud, nube, comes from the same root.

  3. lukas says:

    phyl, yes, when referring to weddings, it is usually plural (“noces”). It can be singular refering to the wedding ceremony, the wedding banquet, the wedding party or exuberant festivities in general.

  4. Jannieu says:

    So, veils and clouds… always knew there was a damned good reason not to do it!! Now I know why!!
    Cheers!
    Jan
    [my name may be feminine or masculine - guess which!?!]

  5. P. says:

    Many musicians and composers know this word immediately since it’s the title of a ballet-cantata by Stravinsky, Les Noces, with the interesting instrumentation of four pianos and percussion (plus vocalists). Fun piece, though not as well known as Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). It often gets played with Orff’s Catulli Carmina since the orchestration is so similar.