Origin of the "word" Easter?


In my ongoing effort to bring a friend to the Truth I would like some help on responding to his latest comment;

“(E)easter is an Anglo-Saxon tranlsation of a germanic tribe goddess named Eastre. She was the goddess of
spring and fertility and her festival was timed to the spring equinox. Later religions copied this festival and renamed it

I have a good idea for response to this but would appreciate some help too.


Your friend is right.
From dictionary.com (cause I can’t get on Oxford)
[Origin: bef. 900; ME ester, OE éastre; c. G Ostern; orig. name of a goddess and her festival; akin to east]

From Online Etymology Dictionary:
O.E. Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from P.Gmc. *Austron, a goddess of fertility and sunrise whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *austra-, from PIE *aus- “to shine” (especially of the dawn). Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ’s resurrection. Ultimately related to east. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of L. Pasche to name this holiday. Easter Island so called because it was discovered by Europeans on Easter Sunday, 1722.


Yes, I realize the “word” Easter has possible origins from this but he takes it to a whole different level by making the jump that Christianity/Jesus/Catholic church was therefore “invented” as some way or means to…well I’m not sure???..to somehow counteract pagans I guess?



Why not ask your friend what month this is? Or what day of the week follows Monday? Did you know that both are dedicated to the god of war? Does that mean that when your friend uses these terms he or she is worshiping the god of war?

Of course not. Words have come about through history and chance, and don’t necessarily imply our modern day usage.

We celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. The Resurrection occurred during the Passover, so it is right that is still celebrated around the same time. Fitting that it happens during spring, when all the world is reborn, but more to do with Passover than with spring.

The Resurrection is the Lord’s greatest miracle and greatest sign of who He is. It is, in a way, the most important doctrine of our faith.



I like that! Thanks for the reply. Sadly, my friend uses science as his religion??? He must see to believe but then he comes up with these “stretches” like above to fortify his non-belief? Please pray for him.


Its usage as a reference to the feast of Passover comes from Augustine of Canterbury who was instructed by Pope Innocent “Do not forbid them their festivals, but in every way show them a Christian interpretation of them.”



I love how some folks think that English is the official language of the ancient world. Not. Come to think of it, English wasn’t even the official language of the Church. Why is this important? “Easter” is an English word. In many languages, if not most, the Feast of the Resurrection is named after the Hebrew word Pesach which means passover. In Latin, the official language of the Church for centuries, the word is Pascha. So the fact that the English word may have been derived from a germanic goddess of the spring equinox means pretty much nothing at all. (I, personally, do not think Easter is named for the goddess but rather for April which was Eostremonat. Whoever decided to use the name “Easter” was probably thinking that passover is usually in April and that is why they went with that name—not because april was a month dedicated to the fertility goddess, Oestre.)

By the way, in some light research, I found that Eusebius noted that there were problems with the timing of the feast of the Resurrection around 190ad. This had to do with the Church’s celebration of the Resurrection as related to the Jewish celebration of the Passover. So, the issue was clarified by the Council of Nicea in 325. I think we can be confident that it was not called Easter by the Eusebius nor by the Council of Nicea. Nor do we have any reason to believe that the Feast had anything to do with a germanic pagan fertility goddess, since the Feast was well in place prior to the conversion of the germanic people’s associated with that particular goddess. The first hints of Christianity among the Germanic people was in about 337. And, as far as England, who borrowed the word from the germans, they didn’t convert until even later (according to Bede; the same source who tells us about Oestre)

Bottom line, the Feast of the Resurrection was in place at least in the 2nd century (probably was celebrated from the beginning). The germanic worship of Oestre would have had no bearing on the “creation” of the feast as the germans had not even been converted yet. Oh, and I didn’t see any germans as attendees of the Council of Nicea either…

Now if you want to talk about how Easter is celebrated by secular society (and yes, many churches have joined in), it is completely obvious that pagan practices are still alive and well. Eggs are a sign of fertility, for example. However, I would challenge anyone to find a Catholic teaching any where in history, that instructs the faithful to participate in Easter egg hunts…


In fact, besides English and German, no other language whatsoever uses any term associated, supposedly (see below), with any pagan deity.

The rest of the world has names derived from Hebrew Pesach “Passover,” as in Greek (the orginal, and still, official language of the Church, from which Pascha is derived), except some Slavic languages which say “Great Night/Day” (from the Vigil), or “Baptize” (the prime day to do so).

The Wikipedia article does a pretty good job at pointing this out in “Easter.” One place where it trips up is that it gives more credence to the reading of Socrates to imply it is an innovation (Great Apostacy myth). What Socrates is referring to is that the local customs were those established by the Apostles in the locality, such as whether it had to be celebrated every Sunday, with the Jewish Passover or separate from it, etc. There seems to have been a difference of opinoin among the Apostles themselves, and the process of going from the Hebrew Church (with its centralized temple determining the date of the Jewish Passover, etc) to a majority Gentile might have had something to do with the lack of standardization. None questioned that it was to be celebrated annually though.


Yes the origin of the word comes from a pagan goddess but why would that matter? Plenty of words in usage today come from pagan usage. I don’t think we are going to church to honor the “Sol Inviticus” when we go to mass on Sunday.

And for those people that go "omg easter comes from a pagan word that means the xtians stol it from wicca :mad: ", try to remind them that the world does not revolve around Anglo-Saxon culture and that it sounds nothing like “Easter” in non-Germanic languages/


Yeah… so what. The days of the week and months of the year are of pagan origin too, but that’s lost long ago, and none of those a-Cs gripe about that, do they?

To be honest, I see this as just another whack at the Catholic faith and an attempt to make themselves seem “special” somehow. :shrug:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.