easter vocabulary

Hey, Peeps! 31 English Words for an Easter Vocabulary Feast

What if I told you that a giant rabbit would bring you chocolate eggs while you sleep?

Would you think I was crazy, or would you just realize I was talking about Easter?

We’ve recently talked about English vocabulary for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, but Easter is a bit different from those holidays.

A lot of English speakers celebrate Easter, but Easter is also one of the most popular and commonly-celebrated holidays in the world.

Because of that, it has many names and customs in different countries.

For example, in Costa Rica, where I live, Easter is not a very popular day. However, the week before Easter, called Semana Santa (Holy Week) is very popular here.

In other places, like Eastern Europe, Easter is celebrated on a different day and with different customs.

Because there are so many differences, today I’ll focus on vocabulary related to Easter celebrations in the United States. That’s where I grew up, so I can tell you about what my experiences were like.

But remember that even in different regions of the United States, there are different customs and traditions.

In this post, we’ll start by looking at Easter words that are connected to religion, since it’s traditionally a very religious holiday.

Then we’ll look at some non-religious Easter words. Those words are also very common, and they’re good to know if you want to talk about modern Easter celebrations.

Talking about Easter will also give us a chance to talk about spring. So if you’re tired of learning about winter, here’s some fresh vocabulary for you!

Whether you’re wondering what a Peep is, or you want to learn to talk to people about what they’re doing for Easter, this post will tell you what you need to know.

For each word, I’ll give a definition or an explanation, as well as an example of the word in a sentence.
 


 

Hey, Peeps! 31 English Words for an Easter Vocabulary Feast

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Religious Easter Vocabulary Words

As I mentioned before, Easter is historically a religious holiday. This means that a lot of the words that people use to talk about Easter are related to religion and religious ideas.

This can be a difficult topic to talk about sometimes, because religion is a very personal and important part of many people’s lives. There is a common saying in English that you should never talk about sex, politics or religion in a polite conversation.

I don’t think that’s always true, but you should be aware that many people are sensitive to these topics. So you may want to be careful when using some of the words in this section. Make sure that the person you’re talking with is comfortable talking about religion.

Here are some of the most common religious Easter words that you’ll hear.

1. Jesus Christ

There is a very good chance that you’ve heard this name, but it may be written or pronounced differently in your native language.

Jesus Christ is a historical person who lived around 2,000 years ago in the Middle East. His teachings started the religion of Christianity (see #3). The exact details of Jesus’ life are controversial (argued about). For example, Christians (see #2) believe that he is the son of God, but he is also a prophet (someone who speaks for God) in other religions, such as Islam.

Example: 

“Many people say that if they could have a conversation with any historical person, they would talk to Jesus Christ.”

2. Christian

A Christian is a person who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Generally, Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God, and that believing in Jesus will let them get into heaven. This word can be a noun or an adjective, and it’s spelled with a capital “C.”

Example: 

“There is a Christian charity that’s collecting money to send to children in Africa. You don’t have to be a Christian to donate money, though: Everyone is welcome to help.”

3. Christianity

“Christianity” is the name for the religion that Christians practice. Like “Christian,” this word is a proper noun, meaning it names a specific person, organization or group. Because of that, we write it with a capital “C” also.

In some languages—like Spanish—there may be confusion between Christianity and Catholicism.

Generally, in English, Catholics are considered Christians.

There is also Orthodox Christianity (in places like Greece or Russia), and Protestantism, but all are considered denominations (groups) of Christianity. Honestly, it’s a bit confusing.

Example: 

Christianity is the largest religion in the world, but there are many different groups of Christians.”

4. Easter

This whole post is about Easter, but it’s probably a good idea to give a definition for this word before we continue.

Easter is the name of possibly the most important Christian holiday. It commemorates (celebrates and honors) the resurrection (re-birth) of Jesus Christ (see #18). Christians believe that Jesus died and came back to life again, and this holiday is a celebration of that.

The date for Easter changes every year, but it’s always on a Sunday in March or April. That day is called “Easter Sunday.”

Many of the words in this section describe the period of time before Easter, since there are many different religious activities in the 40 days or so before Easter Sunday.

Example: 

“Christmas is sometimes more popular, but if you ask Christians, they’ll probably say that Easter is the most important holiday in Christianity.”

5. Lent

Lent is the name for the period of approximately 40 days before Easter. During Lent, many Christians do special activities to prepare for Easter. People often give up (stop eating) specific foods for this period, and there may be activities in churches during Lent, also.

Example: 

“My cousin really loves chocolate, so she decided to give it up for Lent. She said that giving up foods helps her think about Jesus’ suffering.”

6. Fat Tuesday

This is the name for the final Tuesday of the religious “Carnival season” (see #7). On Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday, the religious season of Lent starts (see #5). Another name for Fat Tuesday is “Shrove Tuesday.”

Fat Tuesday probably gets its name for being the last “party day” before Lent. Lent is a more serious period of time. People generally eat and drink a lot on Fat Tuesday, because they know they won’t be able to have some of their favorite foods for the next 40 days or so.

Example: 

“The local bar and restaurant had a ‘Fat Tuesday special’ with drinks and snacks for 50% off.”

7. Carnival

This is another name for the celebration period right before Lent. There are many different Carnival celebrations, but the biggest one in the world is the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (called Carnaval in Portuguese). This word is often spelled with a capital “C” because it describes a specific celebration during the Carnival season.

In the Rio Carnival, there are many days of dancing, parties, concerts and food. There are other popular Carnivals in Cologne, Germany and New Orleans, USA (see #8).

There is another use of the word “carnival,” and that’s for a type of party or festival that’s generally temporary and smaller. There are often rides like at an amusement park, clowns, games and other fun activities. Some schools or sports groups even organize carnivals to raise money.

So it can get a little confusing because a Carnival (like the one in Rio or Cologne) may even include a smaller carnival as part of the celebration. But whether the word is spelled with a capital “C” or a lowercase “c,” you can be sure of one thing: It will probably be fun!

Example: 

“My brother went to Rio during Carnival. He said it was interesting, but everything was expensive and crazy!”

8. Mardi Gras

This is another name for Carnival celebrations, especially in areas that have French influence. “Mardi Gras” actually means “Fat Tuesday” in French. Because it comes from a French word, the “s” in the word “Gras” isn’t pronounced. Even though “Mardi Gras” is originally French, the name is widely used by English speakers.

The most popular Mardi Gras celebration, at least in the English-speaking world, is probably in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States. Historically, Louisiana and New Orleans had a lot of French influence and French speakers. This celebration has multiple days of parades, parties and people dressing up in fun costumes.

Example: 

“I really like New Orleans, but I’ve never been there during Mardi Gras. That’s probably for the best, since I’m not a fan of huge parties and parades.”

9. to fast

In #5, we saw that some people “give up” specific foods during Lent. That means that they don’t eat those foods. If you don’t eat food at all for a longer period of time (usually at least a few hours), then you can say that you’re “fasting.”

This word is a bit confusing because “fast” usually describes something quick, like a car. But that’s an adjective. Here, “fast” is a verb or a noun. During Lent, some really religious people fast for part of the day, like from sunrise to sunset, for example.

Also, think of the word “breakfast.” You might not have thought about it, but it actually describes what you do every time you go to sleep: You fast (since you’re not eating while you sleep). Then, when you wake up in the morning and eat for the first time, you’re “breaking” your fast—by eating breakfast! Cool word, huh?

Example:

“During the Islamic month of Ramadan, many Muslims fast during daylight. That means they don’t eat or drink anything while the sun is in the sky.”

10. Holy Week

In the introduction to this article, I mentioned that here in Costa Rica, Semana Santa means “Holy Week.” That describes the week right before Easter Sunday.

But the phrase “Holy Week” isn’t as common in English. It’s more common in a religious context (like in a church). If you’re talking about a break from school, it’s probably more common to call that break “Easter week” or “Easter break” in English. Note that this may be different from “spring break,” which is a week when students don’t have classes. “Spring break” is often in March, also, and may end up including Easter, but the phrase isn’t directly connected to religion.

Example: 

“In Latin America, most people don’t have to work or go to school during Semana Santa, or Holy Weekso many of them use that time to travel or take a vacation.”

11. mass / church service

If Christians go to church to pray and do other things together, there are a couple different names for that activity.

In Catholic churches, the activity is called “mass.” There is usually a mass on Sunday or sometimes on Saturday, and also for special religious holidays.

In Protestant churches (churches that are separated from the Catholic church), the activity is usually called a “church service.”

Generally masses and church services are pretty similar, but there may be some differences depending on the specific church.

Example: 

“I asked Maria if she wanted to go to our church’s Easter Sunday service with me, but she said she couldn’t. She had already made plans to go to mass with her family that day.”

12. the Last Supper

This is an event that happened in the life of Jesus Christ. According to the story, the night before Jesus died, he ate together with his disciples (followers). That meal is now called “the Last Supper,” and Christians commemorate it with a practice called “communion.” In communion, Christians eat a piece of bread and drink a bit of wine. The bread and wine represent the body and blood of Jesus.

In Christian beliefs, the last supper happened on the Thursday before Easter. That day is also called Maundy Thursday, and some churches have special services or masses on that day.

Example: 

“Christians are familiar with the story of the Last Supper, because it’s very important to Christianity.”

13. Good Friday

This is the name for the Friday before Easter. It commemorates the day that Jesus was killed. That may not seem “good,” so why do they call it “Good Friday”?

Probably, the word “good” is historically related to the word “holy,” which means that it’s connected to God.

Or, some people say that the word “good” is connected to the word “God,” and that the word changed over time.

So there might not be a 100% clear reason for the name, but it’s clear that it’s always the Friday before Easter Sunday.

Example: 

“In the United States, most stores stay open on Good Friday. By contrast, in Latin America, most stores are closed to commemorate the day.”

14. crucifixion

This is when some of these definitions start getting depressing.

As we saw in #13, Jesus was killed on Good Friday. The way that he was killed was by crucifixion. If a person is crucified (“to crucify” is the verb), then he or she is hung on a cross and left to die a very slow, painful death.

Example: 

Crucifixion was a relatively common form of execution (putting someone to death) in the Roman Empire.”

15. crucifix

The crucifix is a common symbol of Christianity. It’s a cross with Jesus on it. Many Christians wear crucifixes on necklaces or have them hanging on a wall to remind them of their faith.

Example: 

“Different churches have different symbols. Some have just plain crosses, without Jesus. Other churches, especially Catholic ones, have crucifixes.”

16. the Passion

Depending on the context, this word can mean different things. But in the context of Easter, it refers to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It’s called “the Passion” because it comes from the old Latin word for “suffering.”

There are also activities around Easter called “Passion Plays.” In these plays, actors pretend that they’re Jesus and the other important people in the story of the crucifixion. One interesting version of this passion play happens in a city called Oberammergau, Germany—but only once every 10 years!

Example: 

“Every year in the city I live in, people do a big procession (march) that depicts (shows) the Passion of Jesus. An actor plays Jesus and carries a cross down the street.”

All this talk about crucifixion and death is making me sad. Let’s move on to some happier words!

17. tomb

Wait, this isn’t a happy word! A tomb is a place where you put a dead body. Another word for that place is “grave,” but usually graves are in the ground, and tombs are above the ground.

This is connected to Easter because, according to Christian beliefs, after Jesus died, his body was put in a tomb—and three days later he was gone.

Example: 

“When I die, I don’t need an expensive tomb, since I want to be cremated. That means that people will burn my body.”

18. resurrection

Finally, a happy word! As I mentioned in #4, “resurrection” means “re-birth.” The connection to Easter is that Christians believe that after Jesus was crucified and dead, he was resurrected three days later on Easter Sunday.

So basically, resurrection means bringing something dead back to life.

This can also be used in a non-literal context. For example, if a music group becomes less popular over time but then they have a surprise hit song, you can say that the song “resurrected” the group’s popularity.

Example: 

“One of the most basic beliefs of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus. Basically all Christians believe that.”

19. sunrise service

This is a common activity for Easter Sunday. It’s a type of church service that starts early in the morning so that people can see the sunrise during the service. Because the idea is to think about the resurrection of Jesus while watching the sun rise, these services usually happen outside (so that you can see the sun).

Example: 

“I want to go to the sunrise service this Easter, but last time it was still freezing and snowy, and I don’t think it will be any warmer this year!”

20. lamb

This is another symbol of Christianity, but it’s also a symbol of spring and new life. A lamb is a baby sheep. Many Christians call Jesus the “Lamb of God” because they believe that Jesus died for our sins, so that we can be okay in God’s eyes.

Like any language, English has specific ways of writing or imitating animal sounds. In English, lambs make the sound “baa.”

Also check out the next section for more symbols of new life!

Example: 

“The other day when I was going for a walk, I heard something say ‘baa.’ I turned around and I was surprised to see a little baby lamb!”

21. sacrifice

When you make a sacrifice, you do something that’s difficult or give up something so that you can help someone else. This word can be a noun or a verb. Christians believe that Jesus sacrificed himself and died to help humans, so it’s a common word to hear around Easter.

Example:

“After they had a baby, the Johnsons bought a Volvo because they had heard it was the safest car. They wanted something sportier, but they decided they had to sacrifice style for safety.”

Non-religious Easter Words

As you can see, a lot of these words are related to religion. But especially recently, Easter has become a more popular holiday, and even non-religious people sometimes celebrate it. Many Christians complain that the holiday is becoming commercialized and losing its original meaning.

I won’t get involved in that debate in this article. Instead, I’ll just focus on some more vocabulary and symbols that you may see around Easter.

22. spring

Spring is one of the four seasons (the others are summer, fall/autumn, and winter). In the northern hemisphere (the northern half of the earth), spring starts in March, around the same time as Easter. Because of that, many people associate spring with Easter and Easter with spring.

Spring is the time when the weather starts to get warmer, and winter snow starts to melt. The days become longer and sunnier, many animals start to have new babies and many plants start to grow again.

In other words, most people associate spring with new life, so it’s also connected to Easter in that way.

Example: 

“My favorite season is spring. Winter is too cold, summer is too hot and fall just makes me realize that a long, cold winter is coming. But spring is almost all positive.”

23. birth

One of the first English words you learned was probably “birthday.” That’s the day of your birth, also known as the day you were born. “Birth” is a noun that describes when an animal starts living. For humans, birth is when a baby comes out of his or her mother, but other animals are born in different ways (see the next few examples).

Note that this word is a bit strange because we don’t really have a common way to use it as a verb in English. We would say that a baby “is born” (or “was born” in the past, for example) because it’s a passive phrase—in other words, the baby isn’t actually doing the action.

If we are looking at the mother’s part in the birth, we would say that she “gives birth to a baby” (or “gave birth” in the past). It’s kind of weird, but it’s one of the unique things about English.

Example: 

“My cousin’s baby was born yesterday. My cousin said that the birth was very normal, but she was understandably tired.”

24. to be born

We looked at this phrase in the past example. It’s used to describe when a human or an animal starts living.

Don’t forget that we always need to use some form of the verb “to be” when we’re talking about births.

Example: 

“Sarah was supposed to be born on July 18th, but she was born early, on July 1st. Because of that, I think her baby brother will be born early, too.”

25. egg

You probably know what an egg is, but there are a few words related to eggs that you might not know.

The most common eggs for most of us are chicken eggs. The female (girl) chicken is called a “hen,” and when the egg comes out of the hen, we can say “The hen laid an egg.” “Laid” is the past tense of the verb “to lay.”

Some time later, when the baby is ready to come out of the egg, the phrase we use is “to hatch.” That’s when the baby breaks the egg shell and comes out of the egg.

Example: 

“If you don’t take the hen’s eggs after she lays them, you can wait to see if they hatch. Usually the whole process takes about 21 days.”

Also, the egg is a common symbol of Easter because it represents the potential (possibility) for new life. Many people even dye (color) eggs for Easter celebrations.

Dyeing eggs is actually very simple. First, you need to cook the eggs to make them hard. Then, you can put them in water with vinegar and food coloring, and wait a few minutes for the eggs to change color. Some of the designs can be very beautiful and amazing!

In addition to real eggs, there are other types of eggs that are common around Easter. One type is chocolate eggs, which are very popular as small gifts for children.

A famous kind of chocolate egg is the Cadbury Creme Egg. It’s a chocolate egg with a sugary, creamy filling. Most people either love them or hate them—personally, I love them!

Another popular chocolate egg is the Kinder Surprise Egg, which is a chocolate egg with a small prize inside. Unfortunately, these aren’t popular in the United States, since they’re illegal there (you can’t sell food with a toy inside in the US).

The other kind of egg you may see on Easter is actually a plastic egg! These eggs are usually made of two parts, so you can open them and put small toys, candy or coins inside them, and then give them as a small present.

26. to hunt

Some families also buy plastic eggs so that they can do an Easter egg hunt. “Hunt” is a verb or a noun that means you’re trying to search for something. For example, if a person is hunting for a deer, it means that he or she is trying to find a deer that he or she can shoot and kill in order to eat it.

An Easter egg hunt is much less violent, though. That’s an activity where people (usually the parents in a family) hide eggs around the house or the yard. Some families hide plastic eggs, some hide chocolate eggs and some even hide real, hard-boiled eggs.

In my family, we used plastic eggs. My relatives put coins, candy or pieces of chocolate inside the plastic eggs, and then hid the eggs around the yard or inside the house. Then, the children had to hunt for and find the eggs and their prizes. This is a pretty fun and common Easter tradition.

Example: 

“While the children hunted for Easter eggs, the parents sat on the porch drinking beer and watching them.”

27. chick

A chick is a baby chicken or any other baby bird (but like many animals, some birds also have special names for their specific babies). It’s also a symbol of Easter because, as we’ve seen, eggs are common Easter symbols, and chicks come from eggs.

This also brings up another common Easter candy food: Peeps! Peeps are chick-shaped marshmallow candies that are common around Easter. Basically, they’re a mouthful of sugar, but they’re still tasty.

It’s also become a kind of strange tradition to put Peeps into the microwave. When you do, the Peeps get huge and you can even make them “fight.” Pretty weird, but pretty funny—and delicious!

The name “Peeps” probably comes from the fact that in English, chicks are thought to make the sound “peep.” Besides referring to this sound or to marshmallow treats, “peeps” can also be slang for “people.”

Also note that “chick” is a slang word for a girl, but it can be offensive if you use it in the wrong context.

Example: 

“Ana is a chicken farmer, but she just started last year when she bought 50 chicks.”

28. bunny rabbit

The words “bunny” and “rabbit” actually describe the same animal, but “bunny” or “bunny rabbit” is generally the name for a baby rabbit.

Like many of the other words, a bunny rabbit is a symbol of new life, so it’s a common symbol for Easter. Also, there is a very famous bunny associated with Easter (see #29)!

Example: 

“I think bunnies are usually pretty cute, but my dad doesn’t like them. He gets angry at them because they come into his garden and eat all his vegetables!”

29. the Easter Bunny

As I said, there is one famous rabbit associated with Easter, and of course that’s the Easter Bunny. The history of the Easter Bunny is a bit unclear, but basically it’s like the Easter equivalent (version) of Christmas’ Santa Claus.

Both Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fictional (not real) characters who bring children presents, but the children have to believe in them, so it’s a tradition that’s usually just for younger kids.

Example:

“Now children, you must go to sleep right away. If you’re good, then maybe the Easter Bunny will bring you some chocolate for when you wake up in the morning!”

30. to hop

“Hop” is a verb that’s very similar to “jump” or “leap.” Both words mean that you move from a sitting or a standing position and go into the air.

Hopping is associated with rabbits, since rabbits can’t really walk like other animals. Instead, they hop.

Example: 

“I saw a small bunny hopping slowly through the grass. But when the bunny saw our dog, it started hopping and running really fast to get away.”

31. basket

A basket is a container made of straw or other materials. You can use it to hold solid objects, but not liquids, since there are usually some holes in baskets.

Baskets are associated with Easter because many children receive Easter baskets from the Easter Bunny. In many families, while the children are sleeping on the night before Easter, the “Easter Bunny” (or the parents) hide baskets of candy, toys and chocolates around the house. When the children wake up, they need to find their Easter baskets.

By the way, the sport “basketball” is called that name because when it was originally invented, players tried to throw a ball into a basket. These days, they use nets instead, but the name stayed the same.

Example: 

“Since I’m not a child anymore, I never get Easter baskets. But for my last birthday someone did give me a basket of fruits and nuts, which was nice!”

 

As you can see, whether you’re religious or not, you can still talk about and even celebrate Easter.

Even though there are some serious aspects (parts) to it, there are also some nice, fun aspects, too. Besides, it’s a great way to practice your new vocabulary.

So thanks for reading, and happy Easter!


 

And One Last Tip About Learning English

What’s the key to learning real English, any time of year?

Using the right content and tools.

After all, a regular textbook isn’t going to teach you the casual English you need to know.

You need to learn from real English like it’s spoken on TV.

Well, there is a site designed to help you with just that: FluentU.

FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks and turns them into English learning experiences. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.

FluentU has a lot of fun videos—topics like popular talk shows, music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:

best English apps

FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. Don’t understand a word? Just tap on it to see an image, definition and useful examples.

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For example, tap on the word “brought” and you see this:

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And FluentU is not just for watching videos. FluentU is a complete system for learning English. Learn all the vocabulary in any video with useful questions. Multiple examples are always available for the word you’re learning.

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The best part is that FluentU remembers your vocabulary. Using those words, FluentU recommends new examples and videos. Your experience is truly personalized.

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or from the Google Play store.


Ryan Sitzman teaches English and sometimes German in Costa Rica. He is passionate about learning, coffee, traveling, languages, writing, photography, books and movies, but not necessarily in that order. You can learn more or connect with him through his website Sitzman ABC.

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