March 31, 2013

"It is noteworthy that among the Germanic languages the word (as the name for Easter) is restricted to English and German..."

"... in other Germanic languages, as indeed in most European languages, the usual word for Easter is derived from the corresponding word for the Jewish Passover; compare pasch n."

Says the Oxford English Dictionary (to which I cannot link). 
Bede... derives the word < Eostre ... the name of a goddess whose festival was celebrated by the pagan Anglo-Saxons around the time of the vernal equinox (presumably in origin a goddess of the dawn, as the name is to be derived from the same Germanic base as east adv....). This explanation is not confirmed by any other source, and the goddess has been suspected by some scholars to be an invention of Bede's. However, it seems unlikely that Bede would have invented a fictitious pagan festival in order to account for a Christian one....

Compare Old English Ēastermōnað April, cognate with or formed similarly to Old Dutch ōstermānōth (in a translation from German), Old High German ōstarmānōd (Middle High German ōstermānōt, German Ostermonat , now archaic)...

A borrowing of the Old English word into West Slavonic (during the time of the Anglo-Saxon mission to Germany) perhaps underlies Polabian jostråi, Lower Sorbian jatšy, (regional) jastry , Kashubian jastrë, all in sense ‘Easter’; however, it has been argued that these are rather to be derived from a native base meaning ‘clear, bright’, and thus (via a connection with the coming of spring) show a parallel development to the Germanic word.
Pagan goddess or clear and bright?

12 comments:

sabeth.chu said...

Rose fingered Aurora.

That's her.

Some of her attributes were merged with those of the Virgin Mary.

edutcher said...

Interesting. The Romance languages use a variant of Pesach.

Paques - French

Pascuas - Spanish

Pasqua - Italian.

madAsHell said...

Etymology!!

I read and study German just so I can find these....well....Easter eggs.

In English, we have the phrase "torn asunder". Asunder comes from the German auseinander - "out of one another".

Ursprache!! More fun than sentences from Gatsby!!

traditionalguy said...

Etymology is very much guesswork too. The Roman Church's sole language was Latin, until the first great German Language book came out which was Luther's translation of the Bible.

Luther desperately set about to to de-Catholicize Germans before the Italians in Rome succeeded in murdering him like they had Hus.

ironrailsironweights said...

Luther desperately set about to to de-Catholicize Germans before the Italians in Rome succeeded in murdering him like they had Hus.

Martin Luther wasn't murdered. He died of illness.

Peter

chickelit said...

Pagan goddess or clear and bright?

Both. Here she is...Eos.

Astro said...

in most European languages, the usual word for Easter is derived from the corresponding word for the Jewish Passover; compare pasch n

Of course, I mentally pronounced 'pasch n' as 'passion' and thought of the 'passion of Christ' which refers to the final hours of Christ's life at Passover. Connected, I suppose.

I also wonder if there is a connection between Easter and 'estrus' the season of heat for most female mammals, which is often associated with Spring.

Paco Wové said...

Related:

Happy Easter, Which is Not Named After Ishtar, Okay?

YoungHegelian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YoungHegelian said...

I had heard that the German Ostern (and thus Easter) came from the same root as Aufersthehung (Resurrection).

From a footnote in Cruse's translation of Eusebius:

Our word Easter is of Saxon origin, and of precisely the same import with its German cognate Ostern. The latter is derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehn, Auferstehung, i. e. resurrection. The name Easter is undoubtedly preferable to pascha or passover, but the latter was the primitive name.

I mean, who knows? Etymologies, especially of the most basic words, are often difficult to recover. They're not even sure of the roots of the f-bomb.

Why do I hear Mahler in the background?

Steven said...

Reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European gives us the name of a common goddess of the dawn, Hausos, who survived in various Indo-European languages — Greek (Eos), Latin (Aurora), Slavic (Zorya), and Sanskrit (Ushas).

Applying the sound drifts the other way, from PIE forward, we find that the Indo-European language of Old English would call that goddess something similar to "Eostre".

Not to say Bede couldn't have made it up, but it would have been quite the coincidence if he did.

chickelit said...

Forgetting where we are for a moment and who we're up against here, what the hell is wrong with celebrating fertility, sex, and goddesses?