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Pronounced /ˈdʒɒkənd/Help with pronunciation

This word could hardly be more positive in its associations. Its definition in the Oxford English Dictionary brims with agreeableness: “Feeling, expressing, or communicating mirth or cheerfulness; mirthful, merry, cheerful, blithe, sprightly, light-hearted; pleasant, cheering, delightful”. That definition also included the word that dare not speak its name these days in such company, gay. Jocund comes down to us via Old French from Latin jucundus, meaning pleasant or agreeable, from the verb juvare, to aid, help, please or delight.

Dictionaries describe it as rather formal and it feels a little old-fashioned, to the extent that it sometimes appears these days as a mildly humorous term for being agreeable. But not always:

More than 8,000 coloured fairy lights are aglow in Falmouth’s shopping streets this Christmas. Their glint and twinkle in the old town centre is as jocund and seasonable as a Yuletide fire or the green and red of a holly bough.

The West Briton, 23 Dec. 2010.

That wasn’t so for Wordsworth, wandering lonely as a cloud while intent on watching his daffodils: “The waves beside them danced; but they / Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: / A poet could not but be gay, / In such a jocund company”. Or indeed Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet: “Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day / stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops”.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 20 Jan 2007; Last updated 21 Dec 2011