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From Middle English nativite, from Anglo-Norman nativite, Middle French nativite, and their source, Latin nātīvitās (birth). See also naïveté.


  • IPA(key): /nəˈtɪvɪti/, /neɪˈtɪvɪti/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪvɪti


nativity (countable and uncountable, plural nativities)

  1. (now dated) Someone's birth; the place, time and circumstances of a birth. [from 14th c.]
    • 1483, William Caxton, Prologue to The Golden Legend, The Holbein Society’s Fac-simile Reprints, London: The Holbein Society, 1878,[1]
      [] me semeth to be a souerayn wele to Incyte & exhorte men & wymmen to kepe them from slouthe & ydlenesse & to lete to be vnderstonden to suche peple as been not lettered the natyuytees, lyues, the passyons, the myracles and the dethe of the holy saynts []
    • c. 1594 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Comedie of Errors”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene iv]:
      I have served him from the hour of my nativity to this instant, and have nothing at his hands for my service but blows.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Ezekiel 16:4:
      And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.
    • 1759, Samuel Johnson, chapter 22, in The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia[2], volume I, London: T. Johnstone, W. Taylor & J. Davies, published 1790, page 153:
      The way to be happy is to live according to nature, in obedience to that universal and unalterable law with which every heart is originally impressed; which is not written on it by precept, but engraven by destiny; not instilled by education, but infused at our nativity.
    • 1922, Eric Rücker Eddison, chapter 1, in The Worm Ouroboros[3]:
      Now when the greetings were done and the strains of the lutes and recorders sighed and lost themselves in the shadowy vault of the roof, the cup-bearers did fill great gems made in form of cups with ancient wine, and the Demons caroused to Lord Juss deep draughts in honour of this day of his nativity.
  2. (astrology) Someone's birth considered as a means of astrology; a horoscope associated with a person's birth. [from 14th c.]
    • 1589–1592 (date written), Ch[ristopher] Marl[owe], The Tragicall History of D. Faustus. [], London: [] V[alentine] S[immes] for Thomas Bushell, published 1604, →OCLC, signature F2, verso:
      You ſtarres that raignd at my natiuitie, / whoſe influence hath alotted death and hel, / Now draw vp Fauſtus like a foggy miſt, / Into the intrailes of yon labring cloude, / That when you vomite foorth into the ayre, / My limbes may iſſue from your ſmoaky mouthes, / So that my ſoule may but aſcend to heauen: []
    • 1722 March, H[enry] F[oe] [pseudonym; Daniel Defoe], A Journal of the Plague Year: [], London: [] E[lizabeth] Nutt []; J. Roberts []; A. Dodd []; and J. Graves [], →OCLC, page 32:
      One Mischief always introduces another: These Terrors and Apprehensions of the People, led them into a Thousand weak, foolish, and wicked Things, which, they wanted not a Sort of People really wicked, to encourage them to; and this was running about to Fortune tellers, Cunning men, and Astrologers, to know their Fortune, or, as ’tis vulgarly express’d, to have their Fortunes told them, their Nativities calculated, and the like []
    • 1791 (date written), Mary Wollstonecraft, chapter 13, in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects, 1st American edition, Boston, Mass.: [] Peter Edes for Thomas and Andrews, [], published 1792, →OCLC:
      In this metropolis a number of lurking leeches infamously gain a subsistence by practising on the credulity of women, pretending to cast nativities, to use the technical phrase; and many females who, proud of their rank and fortune, look down on the vulgar with sovereign contempt, show by this credulity, that the distinction is arbitrary, and that they have not sufficiently cultivated their minds to rise above vulgar prejudices.
    • 1815 February 24, [Walter Scott], chapter 3, in Guy Mannering; or, The Astrologer. [], volume I, Edinburgh: [] James Ballantyne and Co. for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, []; and Archibald Constable and Co., [], →OCLC:
      [] ‘my good old tutor [] instilled into me enough of knowledge for erecting a scheme of nativity, and therefore will I presently go about it.’
    • 1971, Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Folio Society, published 2012, page 313:
      Accordingly [] he was careful, as befitted a Fellow of the Royal Society, to note the exact nativity of his subjects whenever it could be discovered; in this way he hoped to make possible a scientific comparison of the course of human life with the astrological circumstances of its inception, and thus to arrive at a more exact astrology.
  3. (also with capital initial) The birth of Jesus. [from 14th c.]
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “New Atlantis. A Worke Vnfinished.”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], →OCLC:
      [] towards the end of dinner [] there is an hymn sung, varied according to the invention of him that composeth it [] but the subject of it is (always) the praises of Adam and Noah and Abraham; whereof the former two peopled the world, and the last was the Father of the Faithful: concluding ever with a thanksgiving for the nativity of our Saviour, in whose birth the births of all are only blessed.
    • 1669, John Davenport, God’s Call to His People[4]:
      Now we nowhere find warrant in Scripture for setting apart the day of Christ’s Nativity from common use to religious holy use.
  4. (Christianity, also with capital initial) The festival celebrating the birth of Jesus, Christmas Day; the festival celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary or the birth of Saint John the Baptist. [from 12th c.]
    • 1559, “An Act for the uniformity of Common Prayer, and Service in the Church, and the administration of the Sacraments”, in William Keatinge Clay, editor, Liturgical Services: Liturgies and occasional forms of prayer set forth in the reign of Queen Elizabeth[5], Cambridge University Press, published 1847, page 27:
      Be it therefore enacted by the authority of this present parliament, that the said statute of repeal, and every thing therein contained [] shall be void and of none effect, from, and after the feast of the Nativity of S. John Baptist, next coming.
    • 1624, will of Edmond Heywood of the parish of Christchurch London, cited in Katharine Lee Bates, “A Conjecture as to Thomas Heywood’s Family,” The Journal of English and German Philology, Volume 12, 1913, p. 96,[6]
      Alsoe I give to the poore of the parish of Christchurch The some of Sixe poundes to be disposed of in this sorte that is to saie, three poundes thereof in Bread on the daie of my funeralle and the other three poundes in bread alsoe on the feast of the Nativitie of our lord then next followinge []
    • 1835, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Martin Franc and the Monk of St. Anthony”, in Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea[7], volume I, New York: Harper & Bros., pages 33–34:
      Occasionally, too, he ventured to bring her some ghostly present—such as a picture of the Madonna and child, or one of those little naked images which are hawked about the streets at the nativity.
    • 1894, Henry van Dyke, The Christ-Child in Art: A Study of Interpretation[8], New York: Harper & Brothers, page 61:
      The earliest mention of the 25th of December as Christmas Day is found in an ancient catalogue of Church festivals about A.D. 354. And it is surprising to see with what alacrity the date was received and the Nativity celebrated throughout Christendom.
    • 1956, John A. Lamb, The Kalendar of The Book of Common Order, 1564-1644[9], page 19:
      The edition of 1564 contains 23 festival days, the following being a list in Kalendar order. [] 24 June—Nativity of John Baptist; [] 8 Sept.—Nativity of Mary []
  5. (also with capital initial) A set of figurines used to create a nativity scene.
    • 1926, H[erbert] G[eorge] Wells, “§ 4. The End of a Swindler.”, in The World of William Clissold: A Novel at a New Angle [], 1st American edition, volume I, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, →OCLC, 2nd book (The Story of the Clissolds—My Father and the Flow of Things), page 142:
      He would think of us when he was abroad and in all sorts of places where a daddy might reasonably forget his little boys; he brought us back delightful flat tin soldiers marching, cooking, camping, in oval wood boxes from Paris, and entertaining earthenware Nativities with kings, shepherds, and irrelevant crowds complete, from Italy.
  6. (figuratively) Origin; founding.
    • 1754, David Hume, Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, London: A. Millar, 3rd edition, Volume 4, Discourse 11, “Of the Protestant Succession,” p. 247,[10]
      [] ’tis justly to be apprehended, that persecutions will put a speedy period to the Protestant religion in the place of its nativity.
    • 1881, Robert Louis Stevenson, “Swiss Notes, 4. Stimulation of the Alps” in Essays and Criticisms, Boston: H.B. Turner, 1903, p. 264,[11]
      There is a certain wine of France known in England in some gaseous disguise, but when drunk in the land of its nativity still as a pool, clean as river water, and as heady as verse.
  7. Place of origin; place to which a species is native.
    • 1887, A. L. Slosson, “Personal Observations upon the Flora of Kansas”, in Transactions of the Annual Meetings of the Kansas Academy of Science[12], volume 11, page 21:
      For a long time I believed the common yarrow to be introduced, as the country had been settled at least ten years before I saw it, but my belief in that is shaken, as I never sent for flowers by friends, when they went to an unknown region, but they inevitably brought yarrow. I have had it sent from Texas, Utah, Pike’s Peak and Long’s Peak, Colorado, and at last from the Alps and Germany; so its nativity is very uncertain.
    • 1900, Arthur Hewitt, “The Nickerson Collection at the Art Institute, Chicago”, in Brush and Pencil[13], volume 7, page 61:
      The specimens of crystals and other hard stones, which were worked both in India and China, the style determining their nativity, are equally choice.
  8. The quality of being native or innate.
    • 1849, Hewett Cottrell Watson, Cybele Britannica, or British Plants and their Geographical Relations, London: Longman, Volume 2, p. 166,[]:
      Much difference of opinion has prevailed with reference to the genuine nativity of this species [Vinca minor] in Britain.
    • 1903, James H. Hyslop, “Binocular Vision and the Problem of Knowledge”, in American Journal of Psychology[14], volume 14, page 312:
      The most important fact to note in Berkeley’s position is his argument to exclude the nativity of the visual perception of the third dimension.

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