Easter egg

[ ee-ster eg ]
/ ˈi stər ˌɛg /

noun

a chicken egg that is dyed and often given a figure or design, or an imitation of such an egg, as an egg-shaped candy or chocolate, used at Easter as a gift or decoration.
Digital Technology. an extra feature, as a message or video, hidden in a software program, video game, DVD, etc., and revealed as by an obscure sequence of keystrokes or commands.
Movies, Television. a hidden message, as a cryptic reference, iconic image, or inside joke, that fans are intended to discover in a television show or movie.

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Origin of Easter egg

First recorded in 1795–1805
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does Easter egg mean?

Easter eggs can refer to candy eggs or eggs decorated for the Christian holiday of Easter, and searched for during Easter egg hunts.

In popular culture, Easters eggs are text, images, visual gags, jokes, or other content that creators intentionally hide in media for their and their viewers’ amusement.

Where does Easter egg come from?

Eggs are an ancient symbol of rebirth, including in Christianity. Around the central Christian holiday of Easter, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ, observers across Christian cultures partake in various traditions of decorating Easter eggs (evidenced in the 1570s). Children may seek them out in games for prizes in Easter egg hunts (recorded in the 1880s). Easter eggs may also take the form of candy or plastic eggs with candy inside.

Due to its prominence in culture, the Easter egg lent itself to some slang. In the 1920s, an Easter egg was derogatory U.S. slang for a woman wearing a lot of makeup, likening her to the eggshell’s highly painted surface. For a time in the late 1990s, Easter egg was occasional U.K. rhyming slang for “leg.”

In popular culture, an Easter egg, often written in lowercase as easter egg, is an item snuck into a piece of media–including computer software, video games, TV shows, films, and music–meant for the fun of its hiders and finders alike. The term is a metaphor, of course: these items are hidden like Easter eggs, yielding the prize of amusement for their discoverers.

While the term easter egg is recorded by 1986, one of the earliest instances of an Easter egg in media was a hidden object that revealed the names of the one of the developers of the 1979 game Adventure. Video game developers went on to hide many an Easter egg in the ensuing years, taking the form of everything from inside jokes to personal acknowledgments to secret levels and powers.

Movies also feature many Easter eggs. Alfred Hitchcock and Stan Lee famously appeared in their films. Disney often tucks Easter eggs into its films, often in the form of characters from other stories—though some viewers claim to find much more risqué gags. Often these Easter eggs are for the enjoyment of the creators, though in the 2000s, they often hid these gems for the enjoyment of their most attentive fans.

How is Easter egg used in real life?

Easter egg, of course, sees wide use each year for the Christian tradition of painting and hunting for eggs during the holiday of Easter in the spring.

Outside of Christianity, Easter eggs are what keen fans call the jokes, gags, messages, references, and other items intentionally hidden in various media–everything from DVD menu screens to websites. These fans are often completists who like to get everything they can out of their beloved media.

Many websites and online videos compile lists of Easter eggs in various media. They are often discussed in terms of the pleasure and satisfaction we get in discovering them.

More examples of Easter egg:

“the black daredevil suit. i loved this easter egg in the haunting of hill house!”
—@galensdeathstar, November 2018

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for easter egg

British Dictionary definitions for easter egg

Easter egg

noun

an egg given to children at Easter, usually a chocolate egg or a hen's egg with its shell painted
a bonus or extra feature hidden inside a website, computer game, or DVD, that is only revealed after repeated or lengthy viewing or playing
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012