Origins of the word Easter

Origins of the word Easter

Easter in other languages

In many languages the word for Easter derives from the Jewish word ‘pesach’ or ‘passover’, a major Jewish Spring festival which celebrates the exodus of the Isrealites from slavery in Egypt in the 1200s BC.

Hebrew – pesach

French – paques

Italian – pasqua

Spanish – pascua

Swedish – påsk

Romanian – paște

Pesach means passover or skip. One theory is that it comes from the idea that God was ‘passing over’ the homes of Jews when he was killing the firstborn sons of Egypt during the plague. But others believe it comes from the Assyrian ‘pasach’ or placate; as the ancient Assyrians would ‘placate’ the gods at this time of year by offering a sacrifice.

But what about the English word for Easter?

Ēostre was the West Germanic goddess of Spring. Ēosturmōnaþ was the word for April, as in, Ēostre’s month.

English is a language which originated from West Germanic at least 2,000 years ago. In Old English Ēostre became Ēastre.

Ostara/Eostre – Goddess of Spring, Old High German

Eastre – Old English

Ostara, Eostre, Eastre, Easter
Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.

Eostre was also known as the Goddess of Dawn, as the dawn of spring.

Bonus fact: The word April means opening, as in the opening of flowers

The word April comes from Aprilis, the Ancient Roman word for April. Aprilis comes from aperire, meaning; to open, as this was the month when all the flowers and blooms open.

Aperire – to open




From Easter to Ostara: the Reinvention of a Pagan Goddess? – Taylor and Francis

Passover Fast Facts – CNN

Tzarich Iyun: The Meaning of “Pesach” – Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky

The Enigmatic Origins of the Words of the Passover Seder – Haaretz

Eostre – Wikipedia

Archane Alchemy – All About Eostre – The Pagan Goddess of Dawn

Why is it called Easter? – Dictionary Online

What’s in a name? Months of the year – British Museum