"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" was first published in 1833 when it appeared in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, a collection of
seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys.
The lyrics are reputed to date back to the 15th century, and are written in Early Modern English. The author is
unknown. The words of the song had different meanings in the time of its writing than in contemporary use; rest meant "keep," while merry meant "mighty" or
"strong"—thus, the title in modern English means "May God keep you gentlemen strong." It is believed that the song was sung to the gentry by town
watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season.