Irish Language Blog

An Cháisc (Easter) is a Cognate of … Pascha and Pesach Posted by on Apr 12, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Ciseán Cásca (aka ‘Basged Basg’ aka ‘Panier de Pâques” aka ‘Corbis Paschae’)

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

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  1. Vincent F. Pintado:

    Gallaic Revival Movement
    The Gallaic Revival Movement is sponsored by the Gallaic Celtic League in Galicia, Spain. The Atebivota Dictionary Project is based on the reconstruction of the Gallaic language once spoken by the ancient Gallaeci in Galicia, Spain circa 600BC to 200 A.D.
    The members of the Gallaic Revival Movement believe in the theory that the Gaels (Gallaeci) left the shores of ancient Gallaecia to establish themselves in Hibernia circa 500 B.C. Their Gallaic language eventually evolved into written Primitive Irish circa 400 A.D. and Primitive Irish developed into Old Irish circa 600 A.D. Gallaic, Goidelic and Celtiberian are extinct Q-Celtic languages.
    Our project is to reverse the Gallaic stages of evolution from Old Irish to Primitive Celtic upon the utilization of the exclusive primitive Q-Celtic word entries acquired from the Old Celtic Dictionary to achieve the reconstruction of our Gallaic vocabulary. The grammar application will certainly be our most strenuous assignment. The Atebivota Dictionary will be a trilingual Galician/Old Irish/Gallaic dictionary. The project is currently under reconstruction.

    We are not accepted, nor recognized by many Celtic organizations and societies as a Celtic Nation, due to the lost of our Q-Celtic language. The comprehension of our Gallaic tongue, even though reconstructed, will complete our identity and acceptance as modern Galician Celts.

    Our Manx brothers had an arduous task in reviving their Manx Gaelic language since the death of Ned Maddrell in 1974, their last native speaker. Unfortunately, the corrupt development of the Manx language by John Phillips of Man was based on English and Welsh orthography. John Phillips of Man translated the Book of Common Prayer into Manx. Perhaps in the near future a revival group can finally introduce the proper Classical Gaelic orthography in the reformation of the original Manx language.

    The Lusitanian language (Lusitanian: Leukantu) is considered by some authorities as an archaic P-Celtic language. The Acel-Trebopala group has done a magnificent task in the reconstruction of their Lusitanian language.

    Vincent F. Pintado, 2010
    Founder of the Gallaic Revival Movement
    Author of the Old Celtic Dictionary, bilingual Old Celtic-English dictionary
    Author of the Atebivota Dictionary, trilingual Galician-Old Irish-Gallaic (reconstructed)
    Sponsor of the Gallaic Celtic League

  2. John A, Moriarty:

    Thank you for increasing my limited knowledge of Irish. I greatly appreciate your efforts. J.M.

  3. róislín:

    A Sheáin, a chara,

    Tá áthas orm gur bhain tú sult as. Glad you enjoyed it!

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