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March 27, 2012

At the end of the week, the schools break up for the Easter holidays, and I have already heard lots of people say ‘Soon it’ll be half-term’ or ‘I’m really looking forward to half-term’ or ‘Next week we’ll be on half-term!’ They’re all wrong, of course. Half-term refers to three specific holiday periods, usually of one week each, which fall halfway through the three school terms: an October one in the autumn term, a February one in the spring term and a May one in the summer term. The longer holidays of Christmas, Easter and the summer break aren’t half-term holidays. There is no generic name for them. They just are the Christmas holidays, the Easter holidays or the summer holidays – or whatever names one happens to use, but the point is that they don’t occur halfway through terms, but at the end of terms.

I’m not sure why the use of half-term to mean any school or college holiday has come about, but there’s no doubt that it’s gaining traction. Perhaps it’s convenient to have a word which refers to all school holidays. Although come to think of it, we do have ‘school holiday’. What’s wrong with that?

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One Comment
  1. Peter Howell permalink

    Technically, ‘half term’ is now always wrong at my daughter’s school, as there are six (short) terms in the year (it’s better, because the autumn term no longer feels like such a slog). Of course, ‘holiday’ no longer has the connotation of a ‘holy day’. And, in America, doesn’t ‘the holidays’ have the specific meaning of Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year (New Year’s?), but also takes in the various Jewish festivals and those of other religions?

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