Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Words of the Week

As well as a Poem of the Week, I also have a Word of the Week in my classroom. Next week's word is going to be Lent, which is a shortened form of the now obsolete lenten, which in Old English simply meant spring. In fact, as the OED explains, "The ecclesiastical sense of the word is peculiar to English; in the other Germanic languages the only sense is ‘spring’."

In a few weeks, I shall choose Easter. Again the OED makes some interesting points. Not only does it explain the derivation - "from Eostre (Northumbrian spelling of Éastre), the name of a goddess whose festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox; her name (:—Old Germanic *austrôn- cogn. w. Sanskrit usrā dawn; see east v.) shows that she was originally the dawn-goddess" - but it also points out that the festival corresponds "to the Jewish passover, the name of which it bears in most of the European langs. (Greek πασχά, < Hebrew pésaḥ, Latin pascha, French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, Spanish Pascua, Dutch pask)."

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