Last week I went to an event described as a ‘gala concert’ at Bangor University. A friend asked what gala actually means; I wasn’t sure, so decided to find out.

According to the OED, gala (/ˈgaːlə/, /ˈgeɪlə/) means “gala dress, festal attire”; “a festive occasion; a festival characterized by the display of finery and show” or “festive, gay” (chiefly North America). It comes from the French word gala (official reception).

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, gala comes from the French en gala, which perhaps comes from the Old French gale (merriment), from galer (rejoice, make merry).

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

3 Responses to Gala

  1. Michel says:

    According to the Larousse dictionary of etymology “gala” 1736 is an Italian word (galla) coming from old french “gale” (rejoincings) from “galer” (to enjoy oneself). Gala is actually a very glamorous word in modern French. “Soirée de gala” is a glamorous / official and exceptional evening, Gala is the name of a newspaper featuring the “pipole” or rich and famous people.

  2. LandTortoise says:

    Some Spanish uses of “gala”: estar (vestida) de gala- to be all dressed up;
    “gala juvenil”- afternoon disco for teenagers.

  3. Trond Engen says:

    (I overlooked this when it was new.)

    Old French galer “rejoice, make merry” looks as it might be from Germanic galan- “enchant, sing, yell”. That would make gale “merriment” a similar metaphor as enchantment and glamour..

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