Irish Language Blog

Irish Terms for Easter: Téarmaí don Cháisc Posted by on Apr 2, 2010 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Yes, it’s been over a year now since this blog was started.  Luisa was kind enough to send birthday greetings to the blog a little while ago.  Tá an blag beagán níos mó ná bliain d’aois anois.  (The blog is a little over a year old now).  Go raibh maith agat, a Luisa!

That means that now I can refer you back to last year’s “blag Cásca” for some Easter terms (  This year I’ll introduce some new ones.  The blag Cásca for April 12, 2009, dealt mostly with the word “Cáisc” itself, and how it’s related linguistically to Latin “Pascha” and Hebrew “Pesach,” and to the word for Easter in many other European languages (Y Pasg, Pâques, Pascua, etc.) and to the English adjective “paschal.”  Why initial “C” and not “P” if we’re saying these words are related?  Irish, as a q-Celtic language, will tend to have a k/c/q sound where Welsh and Latin-derived words will have a p-sound.  The “q” is, of course, historic, since very few modern Irish words begin with “q” (the notable exceptions being the scientific terms “quinín” and “quionól”).

Most of the phrases we use to describe things that are “of Easter” will use the possessive form (tuiseal ginideach) of “Cáisc,” which is “Cásca:

Domhnach Cásca – Easter Sunday

Luan Cásca – Easter Monday

Aimsir na Cásca – Eastertide (that’s “aimsir” in its extended meaning of “time,” not “weather” here)

Seachtain na Cásca – Easter Week

Uan Cásca – paschal lamb

Lus Cásca – pasque-flower (from “lus,” plant, herb, flower, not “bláth,” the basic word for “flower”)

Cásca” itself will be lenited (inserting the letter “h”) if the noun preceding it is feminine (and singular):

tine Chásca – paschal fire

ubh Chásca – Easter egg

That rule will be dropped if the subject is plural:

tinte Cásca – paschal fires

uibheacha Cásca – Easter eggs (or you could use the term for a clutch of them, “cúbóg”)

And the lenition will be reinstated after nouns that are masculine, plural, AND end in a slender consonant:

uain Chásca – Easter lambs (“-in” being the slender ending here)

Or, for those who believe that the Easter goodies are brought by flying bells (cloig eitilte), the phrase would be:

cloig Chásca – Easter bells (not that you’re likely to find that in any traditional account of Irish Easter customs).

One flying Easter bell would not have lenition (clog Cásca), but it seems to be a job that requires teamwork.  Most references I see for les cloches de Pâques are in the plural.

The good news about all these lenition rules – you can use them over and over again even if you’re not talking about Easter!  Here are some more examples:

scian phóca (pocket knife): lenition following feminine singular noun

sceana póca (pocket knives): lenition “cancelled” if feminine noun is plural

fir mhóra (big men): lenition if a masculine plural noun ends in a slender consonant (as opposed to the singular, which here would be “fear mór”)

“Cáisc” is also used for “Passover” (remember, it’s derived from the Hebrew “Pesach”).  For clarification, one can say “Cáisc na nGiúdach.”

And of course, we can’t overlook Éirí Amach na Cásca (the Easter Rising) of 1916.

A few more terms related to Easter are:

Domhnach na Pailme – Palm Sunday

Domhnach an Iúir – Palm Sunday (an Iúir = of the yew, referring to the use of yew if palm was unavailable)

Domhnach na Slat – Palm Sunday, lit. the Sunday of the rods / slender sticks; also referring to using branches of the yew tree (slat, rod, stick, wand)

Domhnach na hImrime – Palm Sunday (imrim = riding, but today is a literary word, the ordinary word for riding being “marcaíocht”)

Domhnach na Toirnéise – Palm Sunday, lit. the Sunday of the noise / commotion (toirnéis, noise, commotion)

Déardaoin Mandála – Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday

Aoine an Chéasta – Good Friday (lit. the Friday of the Crucifixion)

Sin ráite agam, I’ll conclude with one way to say “Happy Easter.”  Like “Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” the traditional expression doesn’t include the adjective “happy” but instead uses “blessings of”:  Beannachtaí na Cásca ort (to one person) or Beannachtaí na Cásca oraibh (to more than one person). — Róislín

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