COVID canceled our festa … but the word still entered the Oxford dictionary


While holidays have been off Maltese streets for two years now, they have entered the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), joining other Maltese words dghaisa, karrozzin, lampuki… and spat.

The name party, which according to the online platform Kelma Kelma was added during the pandemic, is defined as “a religious holiday or other”.

Linking its use to “predominantly Roman Catholic countries,” OED lists its etymological origin as a partial borrowing from Maltese, Portuguese and Italian.

In 2015, former OED editor John Simpson said Malta timetables that the words enter the dictionary after proof that they are well attested in the English language sources.

If the Maltese borrowed many words from the British, they also lent them a handful, with the adjective spat being the most curious of all.

Derived from spiña, the 1920 naval slang entry means “rendered inoperative, ruined,” says the OED.

The dictionary links the word to certain references, including a 1920 Blackwood Magazine quote in which a commander shouts “stop shooting!” It is spat”.

The word also appears in a 1970 book by Peter Dickinson, The seals: “That damn gadget could run like rain in thirty seconds, or it could be spat always”.

Lampuki, karozzin and dghaisa were also probably imported into English thanks to the British military and tourists who came into regular contact with the Maltese.

The dictionary sheds light on the evolution of certain words – its reference from 1926 to karozzin is listed as carozzi, while in 1972 the The telegraph of the day invented the plural karozzins: “They are horse-drawn”karrozzins‘, and each one is painted so beautifully that you feel like all the owners are in serious competition.

Until the inclusion of party, dghaisa was considered the most popular in recent history, and even crowned Syamantak Payra the 2012 South Asian spelling champion.

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