Thanksgiving: the English Origins of the Word and American Holiday

By Mike Sutton 

The website of the History Channel –    provides a neat summary of the history of the first American Thanks Giving USAThanksgiving in the Plymouth settlement in America, which is marked as the year following the first 1620 settlement of those who sailed from Plymouth, England, to what they then, unimaginatively, named Plymouth – in America – where they settled:

‘In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor Wiliam Bradford organized a celebratory feast andinvited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—.


Whilst Americans get together on the fourth Thursday in November every year for the sensational celebrations, the word Thanksgiving (and the term thanks giving) had been used regularly back in England and Scotland to name officially days of Christian religious celebration – usually in thanks for some kind of peace following military victory.Thanksgiving days were, therefore, a tradition brought over to the American colonies from England and Scotland.


The BigData-ID Method (See the freely available Chapter Two in my book: Nullius in Verba Darwin’s greatest Secret)   , once again, just as it does in the case of theEaster Bunny, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night, beats the Oxford English Dictionary and all other etymological sources to reveal the apparent first English-language use of the term thanksgiving day, as well as its apparent first use to refer to the American celebration – but not the one in Plymouth.

The Plymouth Brethren were far from being first with a Thanksgiving day in America.

There are in fact many contested cases in the USA for far earlier Thanksgiving days (see Coleman 2015)   . For example, see the 1622 publication of Virginia’s Thanksgiving sermon of 1616.     Coleman’s excellent evidence-led book explains that only a dreadfully poor historian would claim that the origin of the term ‘thanksgiving day’ or even the origin of the concept of the American holiday to celebrate it has its roots in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. The only reason so many American’s have been fooled is because long powerful and dominant interest groups in America came from that region.

One again BigData-ID English Etymology beats the Oxford English Dictionary into a cocked hat!

The term “thanks giving” –

“Thanks giving” – England 1618   

The term “thanksgiving day”

“Thanks-giving day”– Apparently first published use in England 1648    and 1654 for Thanksgiving day   .

Thanksgiving day used in 1663 as a designated national celebratory day to mark a period of peace following civil conflict – England 1662    and also England 1663   

Thanksgiving day 18th September Oliver Cromwell got Parliament to create a Thanksgiving day for a victory over the Scottish – England 1675   


Here is the best effort of inferior etymology provided by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in what it publishes, at the time of writing – (8th November 2015) as the earliest attested publication of thanksgiving day.

  • 1674 J. Josselyn Acct. Two Voy. 214 Towards night I returned to Boston again, the next day being Thanksgiving day, on Friday the Tenth day we weighed Anchor.
  • 1704 N. Luttrell Diary in Brief Hist. Relation State Affairs (1857) V. 460 Sir Christopher Wrenn is erecting a throne in St. Pauls cathedral for her majestie to sittin on the thanksgiving day.
  • 1714 S. Sewall Diary 25 Nov. (1973) II. 776 Thanks-giving day; very cold.
  • 1844 J. G. Whittier Pumpkin iii, Ah! on Thanksgiving day..When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board The old broken links of affection restored.

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