How Did July 4th Become America’s Independence Day?

 In Cultural Immersion

Declaration of IndependenceNext week we celebrate July 4th, America’s Independence Day

As most of us know, July 4th  marks that day in 1776 when Congress, representing the 13 founding colonies of the United States, officially dissolved their ties to Britain.
This action was symbolized by the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and authored by Thomas Jefferson, although some changes were made to the first draft by fellow founders including John Adams and  Benjamin Franklin.

Upon adopting the Declaration, John Adams, Founder and later a President of the USA, wrote to his wife Abigail that the day – July 2  should be celebrated with ‘Pomp and Parade, Games, Sports, Bells, Bonfires, and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”

The next year the day had moved to July 4,  for, although adopted 2 days earlier, Congress only  approved the finalized version on the 4th.  The date stuck.  The day only became a national holiday in  1941.

July 4th words and phrases

Here at TALK, we were naturally led to wonder about the meanings and origins (etymology) of the words with which we associate this patriotic holiday.   Here are some examples:


meaning attachment to one’s country, cultural identification with one’s place of birth

It comes from the Greek word ‘fatherland’


The word is derived from the French ‘pique nique’ to describe a social meal eaten outdoors, The word ‘picnic’ was first recorded in 1748 in England, referring to a social gathering and by the 1800’s it was widely understood to include the serving of food al dente.

More recent words associated with July 4th celebrations include:

Hot dogs (Did you know that 150 million hot dogs are consumed on this day?)

According to, a New York cartoonist in the early 1900’s criticized the cheap wieners that were sold on Coney Island saying that they contained dogmeat. It was such bad publicity that the Chamber of Commerce banned the term ‘hot dog’ from the signs in Coney Island.

And the buns?  They were apparently the brainchild of the caterer for the New York City Polo Grounds who had his vendors cry “Red hots, get your red hots here!”


This word is derived from a noun in the Taino language of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola  –  barbacoa .  It referred to a frame of wooden sticks over a fire in order to dry meat.  Its first recorded use as a verb in was in 1690 when it was written “Let’s barbicu this fat rogue.”  Let’s hope ’the fat rogue’ was an animal!!


We invite your comments!

What is the etymology of the words:

Baseball, Independence, July, Parade, and America?


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