Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! As is my tradition with holidays, today I’m going to dive into the history and etymology of valentine.
Merriam-Webster gives us these definitions:
- a sweetheart chosen or complimented on Valentine’s Day
- a gift or greeting sent or given especially to a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day; especially: a greeting card sent on this day
- something (such as a movie or piece of writing) expressing uncritical praise or affection : tribute
Also, I highly recommend you test out your knowledge on this Valentine’s vocabulary quiz. I got 6/11, mostly due to some educated guessing, as usual. I learned a lot!
The word valentine was used as early as the fifteenth century. The Online Etymology Dictionary says it originally meant “sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine’s Day,” which is one of the current definitions as you saw above. It comes from the Latin Valentinus, who was a pope in Rome for about forty days until his death.
It began to mean a card sent to such a person in 1824. The practice flourished in the late nineteenth century.
Bonus fact: The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.
I had a look at the thesaurus too, and here are some words that rhyme with it, in case you can’t think of too many off the top of your head (I tried): Argentine, borderline, countersign, intertwine, undermine, turpentine, Liechtenstein, and concubine.
Valentine’s Day itself was originally a Western Christian feast day honouring one or two early saints named Valentinus. You can read more about it here in a TIME article, but be sure to check out multiple resources because they don’t always agree on the history of the holiday.
I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, no matter how (or if) you are celebrating!