Easter: the Final Word

[Editor’s note:  it has been the custom of this blog to go on hiatus on Holy Tuesday.  As such this will be our last posting until Sunday (unless events warrant an intrusion).  May you all have a blessed Holy Week and to our Christian brothers from other confessions, we hope that you had a blessed Easter as well.]

A few years ago, yours truly penned an essay on the etymology of the word “Easter” ( https://www.monomakhos.com/easter-as-we-leave-the-season/).  I was of the opinion that “Easter” was a perfectly legitimate word for the most sacred of all Christian holidays and, in my own amateurish way, strived to prove it. 

Needless to say, this view is contrary to what most most secular historians believe, namely that “Easter” is a pagan word derived from an ancient Germanic goddess named Eostre (or the Canaanite goddess Ishtar). Sadly, this is a position held by many Orthodox Christians as well.   

It was my belief then that this was ahistorical nonsense, peddled by the same secularists and anti-Christians who have written the same thing about Christmas. If anything, I am more convinced than ever that neither was the case. 

Unfortunately, many of us fell for it –at one time, myself included. 

As you can see from the following video below, it appears that my instincts were correct:  the word Easter has nothing to do with paganism.  It is therefore a valid word for Pascha which can be used in the English language in the same way that Christmas can be used (instead of Nativity).

So in the spirit of historical accuracy, we present to you the following highly entertaining and informative video, which incidentally, is given from a non-Christian perspective (hint: the presenter uses the words B C E. and C E, a dead giveaway).




  1. Deacon John says

    Have a blessed and joyous Pascha

    Christ is Risen!
    Truly He is Risen!


  2. I hope everyone on Monomakhos has a blessed and Holy Pascha. May Christ our God have Mercy on us.

    In these dark times with persecution and schism let us remember the Paschal Troparion: Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tomb bestowing life.

  3. Καλό Πάσχα to all until Bright Week!

  4. Thank you George and Gail for all you do.
    Blessed Holy Week and Pascha. Christ is Risen! Truly He is risen.

  5. Can’t believe how some canonical are leaving for the uncanonical. Can’t FATHOM it! Christ is Risen and Christ will prevail!

  6. Here is the etymology of Easter, according
    to the Oxford English Dictionary [OED]:

    Easter, n.1


    Origin: A word inherited from Germanic.
    Etymology: Cognate with Old Dutch ōster- (in ōstermānōth April, lit. ‘Easter-month’), Old Saxon ōstar- (in ōstarfrisking paschal lamb; Middle Low German ōsteren , ōstern , plural), Old High German ōstara (usually in plural ōstarūn ; Middle High German ōster (usually in plural ōstern ), German Ostern , singular and (now chiefly regional) plural), probably < the same Germanic base as east adv. (and hence ultimately cognate with Sanskrit uṣas , Avestan ušah- , ancient Greek (Ionic and Epic) ἠώς , (Attic) ἕως , classical Latin aurōra , all in sense ‘dawn’). For alternative (and less likely) etymologies see the references cited below. 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.
    Bede ( De Temporum Ratione 15. 9: see quot. below) derives the word < Eostre (a Northumbrian spelling; also Eastre in a variant reading), according to him, 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.: see above). 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. For further discussion and alternative derivations see D. H. Green Lang. & Hist. Early Germanic World (1998) 351–3, J. Udolph & K. Schäferdieck in J. Hoops's Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde (ed. 2, 2003) XXII. 331–8, and for a parallel development compare yule n. Bede's etymology comes in a passage explaining the origin of the Old English names of the months:
    a735 Bede De Temporum Ratione xv Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant, nomen habuit, a cujus nomine nunc paschale tempus cognominant, consueto antiquae observationis vocabulo gaudia novae solemnitatis vocantes.

    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) < the Germanic base of Easter n.1 + the Germanic base of month n.1

    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.

    The form of the word in Old English shows much (especially dialectal) variation: in West Saxon usually a weak feminine plural (Ēastran ; frequently in form Ēastron (also Ēastrun ), probably reflecting a variant form of the Germanic thematic element: see A. Campbell Old Eng. Gram. (1959) §619.1), also occasionally found in the singular (Ēastre ); an apparently strong feminine plural by-form (Ēastra ), apparently Mercian, is rarely attested; in Northumbrian usually a strong neuter plural (Ēostru , Ēostro ), also occasionally found in the singular (sometimes apparently invariably as Ēostro , sometimes in inflected forms, e.g. genitive Ēostres ). The combining form Ēaster is widely attested.

    The β. forms represent Old English Ēastran (the form of both the weak feminine plural and the inflected form of the weak feminine singular) and its later reflexes. The forms of some compounds in Middle English and early modern English may reflect compounds of the Old English weak feminine genitive singular or plural (respectively Ēastran and Ēastrena). &#039 ‘

    A happy and peaceful Pascha to all!

    • Thank you, Brendan for this fascinating discourse!

      BTW, what I like to tell low-church Protestants who still hold to this view: “Did you worship Wotan the All-Father when you attended services last Wednesday night? Well, neither will I worship Thor when I attend church on Ascension Day.”

      • Use of the term ‘easter’ in a biblical text has an interesting history…

        Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words contains the following entry:


        1: πάσχα

        (Strong’s #3957 — Noun Neuter — pascha — pas’-khah )

        mistranslated “Easter” in Acts 12:4 , AV, denotes the Passover (RV). The phrase “after the Passover” signifies after the whole festival was at an end. The term “Easter” is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast, but was not instituted by Christ, nor was it connected with Lent. From this Pasch the pagan festival of “Easter” was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity. See PASSOVER. ‘

        The AV [Authorised Version] noted above is the same as the KJV [King James Version] of 1611; as opposed to the RV [Revised Version] of 1881 for the New Testament.

        However, the KJV was not the first English text to use ‘easter’ in Acts 12:4.
        Tynedale uses ‘ester’ in both his 1st (1525/6) and 2nd (1534/5) editions.
        In this he was perhaps following Luther’s German reading of ‘Ostern’.

        Of other texts: Wycliffe (1382/1388) and Douai-Rheims (1572) both use ‘pasch’,
        which preserves the connection with ‘paschal lamb’, ‘passover supper’ etc;
        but the Geneva Bible of 1560 uses the more English ‘Passeouer’.
        I think that should settle it: Pasch, Pascha or Passover is the English name.

        As for the derivation of ‘Easter’, I would forget about Astarte/Ashtoroth/Ishtar.
        Eos is not just the Goddess of Dawn, but the personification of said Dawn.
        Accordingly Eostre (the Day of Easter) equates nicely to the Feast of the Dawn.
        After the darkness of the Crucifixion comes the Dawn of the Resurrection
        This Resurrection, this Dawn of a Brand New Day was given the name ‘Easter’.
        There was no adoption of a pagan festival into ‘apostate western Christanity’.
        The pagan festival died out and only the name was saved and ‘baptised’.

  7. καλή ανάσταση George and Gail!

  8. Christine says

    Behold the Bridegroom cometh! Blessed are we to celebrate the Paschal Victory over death. I wish all Monomakhos readers and our esteemed hosts a very transformative Holy Week and Paschal celebration.

  9. Ronda Wintheiser says

    I know all that.

    I still prefer the word Pascha. Once I knew what THAT word means, the other one just doesn’t say it for me. 🙂

    Blessed Pascha!