French Language Blog

Joyeuses Pâques ! Easter Vocabulary in French Posted by on Apr 15, 2017 in Culture, Vocabulary

This week has been a holy one for Christians around the world. It’s called Paschal Triduum (and is sometimes referred to as the Easter Triduum), and it contains 3 important days in the life of Jesus Christ. Maundy Thursday (jeudi saint) commemorates the Maundy (the Washing of the Feet) and the Last Supper. Good Friday (vendredi saint) refers to the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and Holy Saturday (you guessed it – samedi saint) commemorates the day Jesus’s body lay in the tomb.

The following day is Easter Sunday (Pâques), and it’s about a lot more than some dyed eggs and chocolate. On this day –  « le troisième jour » (the third day) – we celebrate la résurrection de Jésus (the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

Ash Wednesday (mercredi des Cendres) is the start of Lent (le carême) and lasts 40 days. It’s common for followers to choose something to give up for Lent. According to, “Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ. For catechumens, Lent is a period intended to bring their initial conversion to completion.” I think it’s fair to say that most things people choose to abstain from aren’t exactly sins – some of my friends gave up and Starbucks and Facebook this year.

While Easter always falls on a Sunday, the date on the calendar varies every year. We celebrate this date on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, so we’re looking at some point between March 22nd and April 25th.

In France during the Paschal Triduum? Don’t expect to hear any Church bells. The tradition states that all church bells fly to the Vatican to be blessed by le Pape (the Pope) before returning. They don’t come empty handed (let’s pretend that bells have hands for this) – they come back with gifts and chocolates and drop them off into the homes of children on the way back.

Let’s take a look at Easter-related vocabulary in French

Pâques – Easter  (note that this word is not used with an article and always has an S
la Pâque – Passover (note the lack of S and the usage of an article)
pascal(e) – adjective meaning ‘of Easter’
le Carême – Lent
le mercredi des Cendres – Ash Wednesday
le dimanche des Rameaux – Palm Sunday
la semaine sainte – Holy Week
le jeudi saint – Maundy Thursday
le vendredi saint – Good Friday
le samedi saint – Holy Saturday
les cloches de Pâques – Flying Easter Bells
le printemps – spring
une église – church

un panier – a basket
un jeûne
– fast, fasting
le chocolat – chocolate
un œuf – egg
un lapin – rabbit
un poussin – chick
une poule – hen
un agneau – lamb
un poisson – fish


Joyeuses Pâques !

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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!