Welcome to Withenay’s Wednesday Word: a wandering, wondering dip into the dictionary. The topics are always varied and rarely predictable!
the fifth month of the year
from Latin maius, probably month sacred to Maia, mother of Mercury
First day of May: time to look up the word. Here I focus on its definition as a month, rather than as a verb (expressing ability, possibility or contingency, permission or competence, probability, concession, purpose or result, a wish or uncertainty). Mayday is (per the dictionary) given to sports and to socialist and labour demonstrations, which I suspect we shall see on the news this evening.
It turns out that the month of May has spawned many a word or phrase, and of course I like the slightly more obscure, such as may-duke: a variety of sour cherry. Or maybird: the whimbrel; the bobolink (OK: so you’ll have to look those up a well – some definitions just take you on a round-the-world tour of the dictionary!)
There are the May laws: Prussian laws passed in three successive years (1873-5, presumably in May!) restricting the power of the Church; and there were the May-meetings, which were meetings of various religious and philanthropic societies held in London in May. And we could even talk about maying: the observance of Mayday customs. The one I am aware of is the May dip at St Andrews University: a dawn rush into the North Sea.
Finally, May-dew (the dew of May, especially that of the first day of May) is said to whiten linen and beautify faces. With that, I’m off to the garden before it all evaporates!