Easter: An Origin Story

easter backgroundToday is Easter, dear readers, which is a bit of a complex holiday. It encompasses resurrection, ascendance, rebirth, magic bunny rabbits that lay eggs, baby chickens, and chocolate. Given this complexity of beliefs and themes, I got to wondering about where the word Easter comes from. It’s interesting, so I thought I’d share what I learned with all of you.

The word Easter comes from the Old English word Easterdæg, which came from the Northumbrian word Eostre, which in turn came from the Proto-Germanic word Austron. Austron was a goddess of fertility and spring whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox. Her name came from the root austra-, which can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root aus-, both meaning to shine, with particular reference to the sunrise.

This reference to the sunrise can be seen in the etymology of the word east, which comes from Old English and refers to the direction. East can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root austo-, meaning toward the sunrise.

So how did Easter come to be associated with Christ’s resurrection? The story, according to the English monk and scholar, Bede, is that Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted both Austron’s name and many of the celebratory practices of her feast for their Mass of the resurrection. Interestingly, most of the other European languages use a variant of the Latin word pascha to refer to Easter. In fact, Pasche was the word used for Easter in early Middle English. Pascha comes from the Greek word with identical spelling, referring to Passover, which can be traced back to the Aramaic word pasha, meaning pass over.

It’s fascinating—at least it is to me—that the origins of the word Easter are as complex as the holiday itself. No wonder we find ourselves contemplating death and rebirth while we nibble on chocolate bunnies! Easter is truly a holiday for heathens, the pious, and chocolate-lovers alike.

Happy Easter everyone!

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Etymological information comes from the Online Etymology Dictionary. and the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English.


Linking up with the Moonshine grid over at yeah write.

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Image credit: AndreiPhotoxpress.com

J is for…

alien-egg

Dear readers, welcome to the tenth letter of my Vocabulary Series! I don’t know what it is about the letter J, but so many of its words roll off the tongue beautifully and they have fantastic meanings to boot!

Today, I have three awesome words to share with you, so let’s get started. The first word I’ve chosen is a great action word, though you probably wouldn’t want to be the one being acted upon!

Jettison (verb and noun)

Etymology:  First appears in 1848. The word was restored from the Middle English word, jetteson, meaning the act of throwing overboard, by Marine Insurance writers. Jetteson comes from the Anglo-French word getteson, which in turn comes from the Late Latin iactionem, meaning the act of throwing, which came from the past participle stem iectare, meaning to toss about.

Definition (verb):  To throw or drop something (usually heavy material) from a ship, aircraft, spacecraft, etc.; to abandon or discard something that is no longer wanted.

Definition (noun):  The act of jettisoning, often used as a modifier (the jettison button).

Example (verb):  Ripley sighed as she surveyed the carnage. She was so sure she’d jettisoned the alien in the last movie.

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This next word is one of my favourite words of all time. It’s tons of fun to say and it has a wonderful, practical meaning, so I’m sure you can find lots of good places to use it.

Juxtapose (verb)

Etymology:  First appears in 1851. Comes from the French word juxtaposer, which is first seen in 1835 and was formed by combining the Latin word iuxta, meaning beside or near, with the French word poser, meaning to put or place.

Definition:  To place things side by side, usually to demonstrate or highlight a contrast.

Example:  The vile alien emerging from the water behind her nicely juxtaposed Newt’s innocence.

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And now for this week’s bonus word. Given that tomorrow marks the beginning of October, and the countdown to my favourite holiday ever, I wanted to share this fun Halloween word with you:

Jack-o-lantern (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in the 1600s as a local name for a will-o-the-wisp (which comes from the Latin ignis fatuus, which literally means foolish fire) in East Anglia and southwestern England. The modern meaning was linked to carved pumpkins later on, in American English, which is verified in records from 1834.

Definition:  A lantern made from a hollowed-out pumpkin (or turnip) carved to represent a face; another name for a will-o-the-wisp.

Example:  The alien queen set the jack-o-lantern on her front steps; she couldn’t believe how easy it was going to be to feed her babies on this planet.

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Once again, etymological information and definitions come from the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Image credit:  Google Images