Very hard-working adjective at this time of year of course and as it’s on my lips daily I thought I’d check it out in OED and the results proved most interesting. Fittingly a term for short enters the picture as we go back.
“Cognate with the first element of Middle Dutch mergelijc pleasant, agreeable, merchte , merechte mirth n., and also with Old High German murg short, Gothic -maurgjan (in gamaurgjan to shorten) < the Indo-European base of Sanskrit muhur suddenly, Avestan mərəzu- short, Sogdian mwrzk short, ancient Greek βραχύς short (compare brachy- comb. form), and probably also (with suffixation) classical Latin brevis short (compare brevi- comb. form).
The development of sense appears to have been ‘short; that shortens or whiles away time; entertaining, pleasant’; for a similar semantic development compare pastime n., short v.1 3, shorten v. 1b, shurt v., and also Middle High German kurzwīle short while, whiling away of time, pastime, pleasure (German (arch.) Kurzweil pastime), Middle High German kurzwīlec entertaining (German kurzweilig ), Old Icelandic skemta to amuse, entertain ( < skammur short; compare skent v.).”
It’s fascinating that the words for mirth and brevity should be related. Happiness never lasts long.
BTW Dave, those OE and eME forms, myrge, myrige, merige, would that g be pronounced as a y?
And before I go allow me to use the term in question again. A Merry Christmas to all of you and a Happy New Year!