What Does Red-Letter Day Mean?

Red-Letter Day Meaning

Definition: A special occasion.

Origin of Red-Letter Day

The letter in this expression is not about letters that arrive in the mail. Rather, it is about text on a calendar.

The Catholic Church used red text to mark special holidays and festivals, such as saint’s days, on its calendars. Because these holidays signified feasts and other fun events, people associated days with red writing on them as good, happy days.

Some sources claim that the origin goes back even further, to ancient Rome, perhaps as far back as 500 B.C.

In modern contexts, a red-letter day has come to mean any special occasion.

Examples of Red-Letter Day

what is a red letter day In this example, a woman is talking about her job to her friend.

Neha: I’m about to give up on my job and just quit. I’m making less than all my coworkers, yet I do more work!

Tyrese: Really? You should ask for a raise.

Neha: I know, but my boss never grants raises. It would have to be a truly red-letter day for that to happen.

meaning of a red letter day In this example, two office workers are discussing some good surprises.

Barry: This is such a great day! First, Donna brought in all those doughnuts just to be nice, and then Gary brought in cake for lunch because it’s his birthday. Now the Internet has stopped working, so we all get a break for a few hours!

Rachel: Yeah, I love red-letter days like today! They don’t come that often.

More Examples

This example is about how to make sure to have enough money to last through retirement. The excerpt uses red-letter day to refer to the first day of someone’s retirement, since that is something many people really look forward to for their whole lives.

  • That calls for careful planning both for people already retired and those approaching that red-letter day. –LA Times

This excerpt is from an editorial that is about how great it will be when American women have achieved getting elected to the highest job in the country: president.

  • It will be a red-letter day when women finally break this glass ceiling, one of the last in American politics, just as it was when women were finally entrusted to lead Fortune 500 companies, decide Supreme Court cases and run state governments. –LA Times


The term red-letter days are days that are special in a good way.