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English Language Vocabulary: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. English language learners who wish to participate fully in American culture must learn the vocabulary to talk about the holiday. The following sections provide the most important vocabulary for talking about Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Dinner Vocabulary

Sharing dinner with family and friends is a major part of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Some popular foods served at Thanksgiving dinner include:

  • turkey – a large bird that is the main course of Thanksgiving dinner
  • stuffing – a mixture of seasoned ingredients (usually breadcrumbs or cornmeal) served as a side dish
  • dressing – another word for stuffing
  • cranberries – a tart berry served whole or as a jelly
  • mash potatoes – cooked potatoes that have been mashed and seasoned
  • gravy – a fatty sauce used on turkey, potatoes, and bread
  • green beans – beans that are green which are often served as a casserole
  • sweet potatoes – orange potatoes with a sweet taste that are often served with brown sugar or marshmallows
  • yam – another name for the sweet potato in the United States
  • squash – fruits with hard shells and soft, nutritious interior flesh
  • deviled eggs – hardboiled eggs in which the cooked yolk is seasoned
  • macaroni and cheese – cooked macaroni or another pasta covered in a melted cheese sauce
  • rolls – individually-sized bread
  • corn bread – bread made from corn flour
  • pumpkin pie – a pie made from mashed pumpkin and spices
  • pecan pie – a pie made from pecans and a sugary filling
  • sweet potato pie – a pie made from mashed sweet potato and spices

Historical Thanksgiving Vocabulary

Originally a harvest festival, Thanksgiving was first celebrated in the United States by the Pilgrims. Some historical vocabulary for Thanksgiving includes:

  • Pilgrims – immigrants to the United States who celebrated the first Thanksgiving
  • Native Americans – indigenous people in the United States who celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims
  • Mayflower – the ship that brought the Pilgrims to the United States
  • Plymouth – the location at which the Pilgrims settled
  • November – the month in which Thanksgiving falls
  • Thursday – the day on which Thanksgiving falls
  • autumn – the season in which Thanksgiving occurs
  • fall – another word for autumn
  • cornucopia – an ornamental horn filled with fruits and vegetables used to symbolize the plentifulness of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Traditions Vocabulary

In addition to eating a large meal, Thanksgiving day is also a time to spend with family and friends. Vocabulary that describes some activities of Thanksgiving includes:

  • travel – the act of going from one place to another
  • football – a sport played with an oval ball
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – an annual holiday parade held in New York City
  • Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving on which many people start shopping for Christmas

By learning the vocabulary for the holiday, ESL speakers can participate more fully in the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

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