Tag Archives: etymology

Etymology of ‘Easter’

So the name “Easter,” as it refers to the Christian festival commemorating the resurrection of Jesus, apparently derives from the name of a pagan celebration. According to my New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993 edition, “Easter” comes from an old English variation of “Eastre,” “a goddess whose feast was celebrated at the vernal equinox.” (See also sources here and here.)

Another word for this Christian holiday, also according to the SOED, is “Pasch,” which, like non-English words for the same event (for example, the Spanish “Pascua“), seems to be derived from the Latin and Greek and, ultimately, Hebrew, words for “Passover.”

So what’s weird is that these two names for this most-uniquely Christian of holidays both come from non-Christian religions, and specifically, “Easter” and “Passover” are actual holidays in these other religions. Was this perhaps a marketing move on the part of the early church leaders, a way to convert the non-believers by appending a Christian celebration onto celebrations the non-believers were already having, not unlike Christmas?

Links: Place-name etymology, etc.

1. A map of the U.S. labeled by etymological place-name (Illinois is labeled as “Land of Those Who Speak Normally.” Original website here.

2. A particular case of language difficulty — a person who, after a stroke, can abstractly describe a term he cannot come up with. I’m often fascinated by what these injuries say about how our brains process language, how the words that just appear in my mind-voice just come to me. Original here.

3. Messy poems. Original post here.