Spring has sprung, and Easter is right around the corner. So what does the word Easter mean, and does it have any relation to the cardinal direction east? Let's find out. Easter was a pagan holiday (which would later be reappropriated to Christianity, just like Christmas was from Saturnalia) that was meant to celebrate Eostre, a Germanic goddess of rebirth, spring, and fertility. Her name comes from the Proto-Germanic root aust, meaning "sunrise" (something to do with both rebirths and fertility, in a way). This in turn probably hails from the Proto-Indo-European root aus, meaning "to shine", because the sun shines. Makes sense, but let's swing back to aust for a second. It had a second meaning of "east", because the sunrise occurs in the east, and, through Old English eastan, is the etymon of our word east. So not only is the Easter Bunny pagan and fertile, but it's the opposite of the Wester Bunny, in a serious, etymological sense.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.