Words at Play

8 Ways to Get Away From It All

Whether it's a jaunt or a junket, just remember sunblock.


Today we use jaunt to mean a short trip taken for pleasure, as in “a weekend jaunt to the lake.” But jaunts weren’t always about pleasure. Originally the word, which was sometimes rendered as jaunce, was for a trip or activity that left you tired or sore:

Nurse. I am aweary, give me leave awhile.

Fie, how my bones ache! What a jaunce have I had!
— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The origin of jaunt is unknown. And while there might be a temptation to connect the noun to the adjective jaunty (meaning “sprightly in manner or appearance”), that word is actually a modification of the French gentil, which once meant “noble.”


Sortie is a word most often found in military contexts, referring to a sudden issuing of troops from a defensive position or an air attack by a single plane.

In French-speaking countries, you might see the word SORTIE on signs that denote exits. It derives from the Middle French verb sortir, meaning “to go out” or “to leave.” Occasionally English use of the noun emphasizes the notion of going out for a journey intended for adventure or to achieve a task:

In a council there in the ravines, Coronado decided that he, with thirty of his ablest horsemen, six sturdy foot soldiers and the Franciscans, would make a last-ditch sortie to the north, relying on the gold they would surely find there to salvage the reputation of his expedition.
— James A. Michener, Texas, 1985


A sojourn is a temporary stay, though the length of that stay can vary considerably:

But the downpour was furious by now, the plane journey from London had taken longer than I'd foreseen, and I needed a wash and a brushup before starting my weekend sojourn.
— S. J. Perelman, The New Yorker, 26 Nov. 1966

The Jews, who retained their Judeo-Spanish language throughout their sojourn in Salonica, were still the largest ethnic group in the population when the city fell to the Greek army in 1912.
— Richard Crampton, The New York Review of Books, 23 June 2005

The etymology of sojourn points to a particular length of time. The Anglo-French verb sujurner derives from a Vulgar Latin verb that combined the Latin sub (“under, during”) with the Late Latin diurnum, meaning “day.” The noun journey took a similar route through the Anglo-French noun jur, also meaning “day.”


The most well-known sense of holiday in the US is for a day designated for a celebration or reflection, such as Memorial Day or Independence Day. The Old English hāligdæg means “holy day,” as early holidays were intended for religious observance.

Although found frequently enough in American English, the use of holiday to mean “vacation” has a British pedigree:

'WELL, and how does success taste?' said Torpenhow, some three months later. He had just returned to chambers after a holiday in the country.
— Rudyard Kipling, The Light That Failed, 1890

MORE TO EXPLORE: The History of the Word 'Vacation'


A junket can be any trip or journey, but it is used more specifically to refer to a trip taken at the expense of another (such as an employer). You might hear of an actor going on a press junket to promote a movie, for example.

The bands of the regiments were making music at all hours. The greatest folks of England walked in the Park --there was a perpetual military festival. George, taking out his wife to a new jaunt or junket every night, was quite pleased with himself as usual, and swore he was becoming quite a domestic character. And a jaunt or a junket with HIM! Was it not enough to set this little heart beating with joy?
— William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848

Junket was once a popular term for any sweet dish. William Adlington's sixteenth-century translation of The Golden Ass of Apuleius (1566) lists a few examples: "Bread pasties, tartes, custardes and other delicate ionckettes dipped in honie." So how did a word for a food become a word for a trip?

The Latin noun juncus referred to a rush (a marsh plant used in the making of mats and baskets). The name junket (likely derived from the Italian giuncata) was used for a kind of cream cheese stored in a container made from this material. From there the word came to refer to the dessert, then a pleasurable outing or feast at which such a dish might be served.

Photo: Bee-individual

A sabbatical is a leave granted to someone (such as a professor) so that time can be devoted to research, writing, or some other project apart from their regular teaching job. Traditionally, a sabbatical is offered every seventh year of a teaching career and can last for an entire academic year.

“I’m excited about the selection,” said Wolch, who will return to teaching after a sabbatical doing research in India.
— John King, The San Francisco Chronicle, 27 June 2019

Sabbatical is related to Sabbath, which also has to do with sevens as the Biblical day of rest after six days of labor. We trace the origins of both sabbatical and Sabbath to the Greek word sabbaton. Sabbaton itself traces to the Hebrew word shabbāth, meaning “rest.”


A recent coinage, staycation is a portmanteau of stay and vacation. It’s a perfect word to describe a time away from responsibilities that doesn’t involve traveling to distant places, whether due to financial limitations or simply a desire to stay home.

Between running a start-up company and wrapping up his graduate degree, Pierre Huguet is too busy to take a vacation this summer. “I don’t have much time to travel around, so I’ve decided to stay home,” he says. Instead, he’s taking a staycation, a getaway popularized after the Great Recession that’s seeing a resurgence this year.
— Christopher Elliott, The Washington Post, 20 June 2019

suitcase with mask and sunglasses on it

Vaxication—a combination of vaccine and vacation—has increased in use as the COVID-19 vaccine has become more available to the public. The word is used humorously to describe the post-vaccination travel plans people are making.

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