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See also: Jubilee


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From Middle French jubile (French jubilé), from Late Latin jūbilaeus. Beyond this point, the etymology is disputed. Traditionally this derives from Ancient Greek ἰωβηλαῖος ‎(iōbēlaîos, of a jubilee), from ἰώβηλος ‎(iṓbēlos, jubilee), from Hebrew יובל ‎(yobēl/yovēl, ram, ram's horn; jubilee), presumably because a ram’s horn trumpet was originally used to proclaim the event.[1] More recent scholarship disputes this – while the religious sense is certainly from Hebrew, the term itself is proposed to have Proto-Indo-European roots. Specifically, this interpretation proposed that Latin jūbilaeus is from iūbilō ‎(I shout for joy), which predates the Vulgate, and that this verb, as well as Middle Irish ilach ‎(victory cry), English yowl, and Ancient Greek ἰύζω ‎(iúzō, shout), derived from Proto-Indo-European *yu- ‎(shout for joy). In this interpretation, the Hebrew term is instead a borrowing from an Indo-European language, hence ultimately of Proto-Indo-European origin.[2]


jubilee ‎(plural jubilees)

  1. (Jewish historical) A special year of emancipation supposed to be kept every fifty years, when farming was abandoned and Hebrew slaves were set free. [from 14th c.]
    • 2009, Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, Penguin 2010, p. 120:
      in the old Israel, there had supposedly been a system of ‘Jubilee’, a year in which all land should go back to the family to which it had originally belonged and during which all slaves should be released.
  2. A fiftieth anniversary. [from 14th c.]
  3. (Catholicism) A special year (originally held every hundred years, then fifty, and then fewer) in which remission from sin could be granted as well as indulgences upon making a pilgrimage to Rome. [from 15th c.]
  4. A time of celebration or rejoicing. [from 16th c.]
  5. (obsolete) A period of fifty years; a half-century. [17th-18th c.]
    • 1646, Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, I.5:
      How their faiths could decline so low, as to concede [...] that the felicity of their Paradise should consist in a Jubile of copulation, that is, a coition of one act prolonged unto fifty years.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Peake’s commentary on the Bible
  2. ^ Mallory, J. P. and Adams, D. Q. (2006). The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19929668-2, p. 363.