New Testament Bible Class

Words (e.g. Easter) that Name the Day of Our Lord’s Resurrection

Someone asked about the meaning of the word “easter”.  Unfortunately, you can see below that it is not very meaningful by itself.  Or course its meaning is beyond measure when associated with the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!   Note that Christians who speak “Romance languages” (and others around the world) use a word for Christ’s resurrection that is  associated with Pesach, the Hebrew festival of Passover.  Sometimes we too will talk about the Pascal Lamb (Jesus).  A sample of Romance Languages (originate from Latin):  French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and others.

 1)  The word “Easter” is used once in one English translation.  It is used in Acts 12:4 of the King James Version of the Bible.  All other translations use the word “Passover” rather than Easter in Acts 12:4.



 The two references below are secular.  Pleaset let me know if you are aware of a Christian-oriented source.

2)  *Austron, a goddess of fertility and sunrise whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *austra-, from PIE *aus- “to shine” (especially of the dawn). Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ’s resurrection. Ultimately related to east. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of L. Pasche to name this holiday.


3)  The modern English term Easter developed from the Old English word Eastre, which itself developed prior to 899 A.D.. The name refers to the Eostur-monath, a month of the Germanic calendar which may have been named for the goddess Eostre in Germanic paganism, attested only by Bede.[4]

In his De temporum ratione, Bede, an 8th-century English Christian monk, wrote in Latin:

“Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit.”

which translates as:

“Eostur-month, which is now interpreted as the paschal month, was formerly named after the goddess Eostre, and has given its name to the festival.”

Some scholars have suggested that a lack of supporting documentation for this goddess might indicate that Bede assumed her existence based on the name of the month.[5] Others state that Bede’s status as “the Father of English History,” having been the author of the first substantial history of England ever written, might make the lack of additional mention of a goddess whose worship had already died out by Bede’s time unsurprising. The debate receives considerable attention because the name ‘Easter’ is derived from Eostur-monath, and thus, according to Bede, from the Germanic goddess Eostre, though this etymology is sometimes disputed.[6]

Jacob Grimm took up the question of Eostre in his 1835 work Deutsche Mythologie. Grimm notes that Ostara-manoth is etymologically related to Eostur-monath, and in writing of various landmarks and customs that he believed to be related to a putative goddess he named Ostara in Germany.

Romance languages

In all Romance languages the name of the Easter festival is derived from the Greek name, Pascha which is itself derived from Pesach, the Hebrew festival of Passover.

Semitic languages

Christians speaking Semitic languages (primarily Arabic) generally use names cognate to Hebrew Pesach (פֶּסַח). For instance, the second word of the Arabic name of the festival عيد الفصح ʿĪd al-Fiṣḥ has the root F-, which given the sound laws applicable to Arabic is cognate to Hebrew P-S-, with “” realized as /x/ in Hebrew and /ħ/ in Arabic. Arabic also uses the term عيد القيامة ʿĪd al-Qīāmah, meaning “festival of the resurrection,” but this term is less common.

Slavic languages

In most Slavic languages, the name for Easter either means “Great Day” or “Great Night”. For example, Wielkanoc and Velikonoce mean “Great Night” or “Great Nights” in Polish and Czech, respectively. Великдень (Velykden), Великден (Velikden) and Вялікдзень (Vyalikdzyen’) mean “The Great Day” in Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Belarusian, respectively.

In Croatian, however, the day’s name reflects a particular theological connection: it is called Uskrs, meaning “Resurrection”. In Croatian it is also called Vazam (Vzem or Vuzem in Old Croatian), which is a noun that originated from the Old Church Slavonic verb vzeti (now uzeti in Croatian, meaning “to take”). It also explains the fact that in Serbian Easter is called Vaskrs, a liturgical form inherited from the Serbian recension of Church Slavonic. It is also known that long ago it was called Velja noć (velmi: Old Slavic for “great”; noć: “night”) in Croatian. The verb krstiti in Croatian means “to baptize”, so the words krštenje (baptizing) and Uskrs are supposed to derive from Christ’s name, from which the word krst was later formed, now meaning “cross” (nowadays having a synonym, križ). It is believed that Cyril and Methodius, the Greek “holy brothers” who baptized the Slavic people and translated Christian books from Latin into Old Church Slavonic, invented the word Uskrs from the word krsnuti or “enliven”.

Another exception is Russian, in which the name of the feast, Пасха (Paskha), is a borrowing of the Greek form via Old Church Slavonic.[7]

Celtic languages

In all modern Celtic languages the term for Easter is derived from Latin. In Brythonic languages this has yielded Welsh Pasg, Cornish and Breton Pask. In Goidelic languages the word was borrowed before these languages had re-developed the /p/ sound and as a result the initial /p/ was replaced with /k/. This yielded Irish Cáisc, Gaelic Càisg and Manx Caisht. These terms are normally used with the definite article in Goidelic languages, causing lenition in all cases: An Cháisc, A’ Chàisg and Y Chaisht.


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