Good Friday and Easter
Reader Elaine Peters wonders if the word “Good” in “Good Friday” has anything to do with the word “God,” pointing out that the English “good-bye” is a shortened version of the once common expression “God be with ye.”
The word “goodbye” is the result of running words together until they’ve dwindled into a compressed version of the original.
The English words good and god, however, are not related.
Both stem from Indo-European roots.
The word god meaning “deity,” is thought to come from a word meaning “that which is invoked.” Or, It could come from a different Indo-European word meaning “to pour” as in the pouring of a libation.
The word good, meaning “having a desirable quality,” comes from a Proto-Indo- European base word with the meaning “to unite, be associated, suitable.”
Like the word “nice,” “good” can be used in so many contexts that it is probably a word to be avoided by careful writers. For example, good can have the following meanings:
prosperous: He makes a good living.
beneficial: Spinach is good for you.
welcome: The doctor gave him good news.
fertile: The land isn’t very good in this area.
attractive: Actors must have good looks.
genuine: This money is not good.
advantageous: I got a good deal on this couch.
Among the many meanings of “good” are virtuous, moral, and wise. One of the meanings of the word holy is “infinitely good.” From such meanings come the expressions “the Good Book” and “Good Friday.”
To call the day of the crucifixion of Jesus “Good Friday” could seem a little perverse, but seen from the perspective of Christian belief, the day marks the salvation of mankind and the triumph over death. For that reason it is called “Good” Friday in the Christian calendar.
The Christian use of the word Easter for the religious celebration of the passion and death of Christ is one of those ironies of linguistic history.
The word Easter derives from the name of an ancient Germanic goddess of fertility and sunrise, Austron. Her feast was celebrated at the spring equinox. Anglo-Saxon converts to Christianity adopted the name and, according to the Venerable Bede, some of the practices of the old worship for their Mass of the Resurrection as well.
The word east derives from the same word as does the name of the goddess.
The German word for Easter is similar: Ostern, but most European languages use words derived from Medieval Latin pascha:
Russian: nacxa [pass-kha]*
(with thanks to Andre, Andriano, and Alexey)
The Latin word come from a Hebrew word which passed into Aramaic as pasha and from there into Greek and Latin. William Tyndale, translating the Bible in 1530, translated Hebrew pesah as “pass over.”
During the Middle English period, some writers used the word Pasche for Easter, but the pagan word is the one that has survived into modern English.
Even though English speakers use Easter as the name of the festival, they do have an adjective, paschal, that has the meaning “of or pertaining to Easter.”
One of my family traditions was the eating of the “Paschal Egg” on Easter morning. We cut one of our colored eggs, usually a purple one, into four pieces, one for each member of the family.
I suppose that an Easter egg hunt could be referred to as a paschal event.
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