Translation musings: Happy Easter!

Apr 17, 2014 | World events

EasterSo, we’re all gearing ourselves up for the lovely long Easter weekend – planning not to drive… anywhere; buying the roast for Sunday; hiding the eggs (for the children…?). Cambridge is wreathed in sunshine (or was until I wrote that line!) and a Dunkin’ Donuts has opened next door. Who could ask for more?

Easter is, of course, the most important time in the Christian calendar, but what about the word Easter – where does that come from? Most European languages take their word for this time of year from the Hebrew Pesach (Latin Pascha ) – the festival of Passover, which was the setting for the Easter events nearly 2000 years ago; the French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, Dutch Pasen, Danish Påske and Russian Paskha for example. The modern Celtic languages also take this route – with the Welsh Pasg and Cornish and Breton Pask. So where does Easter come from?

Well, we’ve gone a bit more Pagan. The Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre refers to the Eostur-monath from the Germanic calendar. Saint Bede, English monk, scholar and translator, wrote that it was named after the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess Ēostre. However, another theory  is that Eostre may have just been the word for spring festivals. The word roots have been traced back thousands of years old to mean shine and dawn, which would make sense at this time of long, light days.

But however you say it and wherever it comes from – Happy Easter! Bona Pasqua! Frohe Ostern! Páscoa Feliz! ᏥᏌ ᏕᎴᎯᏌᏅ (that’s Cherokee…)! Hau ʻoli Pakoa! Glad Påsk! Have a wonderful weekend – I hope the sun shines for you and the chocolate tastes good.


Thanks to Omniglot and Language Portal of Canada
Image credit: ngiurescu @