An Cháisc (Easter) is a Cognate of … Pascha and Pesach Posted by róislín on Apr 12, 2009 in Irish Language
It may seem straightforward enough that Pascha (Latin for Easter) and Pesach (Passover) are linguistically related to each other. Several of the other Celtic words for Easter are also clearly connected, Y Pasg (Welsh), Pask (Cornish, Breton), as are the English adjective, Paschal, and the Romance words, Pâques, Pascua, and Pasqua. Their connection to “An Cháisc” may seem like a stretch, though!
The modern Celtic languages are divided into two categories, however, and understanding the split makes the connection between Pascha and An Cháisc more transparent. Welsh, Breton, and Cornish belong to the P-Celtic category. With that category, many words will be related, if not identical, with a consistent “p” or “b” sound. Two representative examples are “mab” for “son” in all three P-Celtic languages, and the word for “head,” in Welsh “pen,” and in Breton and Cornish, “penn.”
Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx belong to the Q-Celtic category. These languages typically have a “k” sound where the P-Celtic languages have a “p” or “b” sound. For example, the word for “son” in all the Q-Celtic languages is “mac” and “head” is “ceann” in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, “kione” in Manx.
Knowing that Irish is a Q-Celtic language and that most early Irish terminology connected to Christianity is derived from Latin, we can almost predict that the Irish for “Pascha” will begin with a “k” sound, not “p” or “b.” Hence, Cáisc.
From “Cáisc” to “An Cháisc” is a fairly standard change in Irish. “Cáisc” is a feminine noun, and the initial letter (here “C”) of feminine singular nouns is often changed after the definite article “an” (the). The letter “h” is inserted and the pronunciation changes. The “ch” of “Cháisc” is pronounced like the “ch” of German “Buch” or Scottish “Loch.”
Why the definite article? It’s tradition! In Irish, one also says, “An Nollaig” (“The” Christmas) and “An Inid” (“The” Shrovetide).
The Scottish Gaelic and Manx terms (Càisg, Caisht) behave very similarly, becoming A’ Chàisg and Y Chaisht.
One last change will enable us to wish each other Easter greetings. To say “of Easter,” we go back to the original initial “C” but we change the ending: Beannachtaí na Cásca ort (the blessings of Easter on you).
On a more lighthearted note, we can also talk about “Coinín na Cásca” (Easter Rabbit, the “Rabbit of Easter”) and “Uibheacha Cásca daite” (dyed Easter Eggs).
Bhur mblagálaí — Róislín