Why English-Speaking Jews Call It "Passover" Rather Than "Pesah"

One never hears Jews speak among themselves of Sukkot as the holiday of Booths, or of Rosh Hashanah as New Year’s Day. Why the difference?

Workers making matzah for Passover in Bnei Brak, Israel in 2020. Guy Prives/Getty Images.

Workers making matzah for Passover in Bnei Brak, Israel in 2020. Guy Prives/Getty Images.

COLUMN
April 20 2022
About Philologos

Philologos, the renowned Jewish-language columnist, appears twice a month in Mosaic. Questions for him may be sent to his email address by clicking here.

It is a curious fact that, when referring to their holidays, Jewish speakers of English commonly use a native English term only for one of them—namely, Passover. One almost never hears Jews speak among themselves of Sukkot (or Sukkes, if they prefer the Ashkenazi pronunciation) as the holiday of Tabernacles or Booths, or of Shavuot (or Shavues) as Pentecost. Yom Kippur is Yom Kippur, not the Day of Atonement, and Rosh Hashanah is Rosh Hashanah, never New Year’s Day. We say “Purim,” “Hanukkah,” and “Simḥat Torah” (or “Simkhes Torah”), not “the Feast of Esther,” “the Feast of Lights,” or “the Rejoicing of the Law.” Passover is the exception.

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More about: Passover, Religion & Holidays