Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holiday or vacation?

The end of June is, for teachers in Spain at least, synonymous with the beginning of the summer holidays. The last few weeks are usually hectic, with classes in the morning and meetings in the afternoon and evening, followed by dinners out with fellow teachers or students, and it's only when you finish the last class that you come to realize that “this is it”, the holidays have started.
Holiday on the beach
Photo in:

The word holiday comes from old English haligdæg from halig meaning “holy” or “sacred” and dæg meaning “day”. So, originally, it meant a religious festival and also a time for recreation. Today, we use this word in British English to mean the period of time when you are allowed to be out of work or school, and also, the time spent in another place or country for rest and enjoyment.

In the USA, the word vacation is used with these meanings. This word comes from French, and originally from the latin verb vacare, which means “to be empty, free or at leisure”.

Both in the UK and the USA the word holiday is used to mean a day when everybody is officially allowed to be away from work. This day can also be called public holiday or bank holiday in Britain, and legal holiday in America. The school will be closed on Monday because it's a holiday. A national holiday is an official day to celebrate an important national event. One national holiday that everybody celebrates in America is Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving parade
Image: 'The famous Macy's Turkey

When Americans talk about the holidays or the holiday season, they mean the time in December and early January that includes Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year. The film was a summer release, but was so popular it ran through the holiday season.

To make things more complicated, the British use the word vacation to mean the period when university is officially closed for students. But, apart from this meaning, vacation is mainly a US word.

The word holiday is used in the singular when we mean a short period of one or two days, whereas for longer periods we usually use the plural holidays. We've got a holiday next Monday. We are going to Italy for the summer holidays. But we always use the singular in expressions like “two weeks' holiday” or “on holiday”.

In an informal context, it can be shortened to hols: On our summer hols last year we camped at a lovely site by the beach.

Holiday can also be a verb meaning “to spend a holiday somewhere”. She was holidaying with her family in Morocco.
Image: 'Moroccan Textures

Holiday or vacation can be found in expressions such as:
  • To go on holiday/vacation
  • To take/have a holiday/vacation
  • To be on holiday/vacation
Note that we always use the preposition on with these two words.

Finally, the people who are on holiday are called holidaymakers or vacationers.

Have a nice holiday if you are as lucky as me, and if not, don't despair, you will soon have one!

Listen to Madonna's song "Holiday" and fill in the gaps.


  1. Well, for me it is better if you give yourself a vacation holiday once in a while, so that you can freshen up your mind and relieve from stress.

  2. Nice Blog! It's Represent different meaning of sentence.Thanks for share with us.

  3. Great things..nice infromation about vocabulary.It's new things.Thanks for posting.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...