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Passover

[ pas-oh-ver, pahs- ]
/ ˈpæsˌoʊ vər, ˈpɑs- /
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noun
Also called Pesach, Pesah. a Jewish festival that commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and is marked chiefly by the Seder ritual and the eating of matzoth. It begins on the 14th day of Nisan and is celebrated for eight days by Orthodox and Conservative Jews outside of Israel and for seven days by Reform Jews and Jews in Israel.
(lowercase) paschal lamb (def. 1).
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Origin of Passover

1520–30; noun use of verb phrase pass over, as translation of Hebrew pesaḥ
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What is Passover?

Passover is a Jewish festival that commemorates the Exodus, the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, where they had been enslaved. It is considered one of the most important Jewish holidays.

Jews traditionally celebrate Passover with family and friends by holding a ceremonial meal called a Seder, which consists of special symbolic dishes, including unleavened bread called matzo.

Passover can also be called Pesach or Pesah, and is sometimes referred to as the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.

When is Passover?

Passover can occur in March or April. In 2021, Passover begins on March 27. In 2022, Passover will begin on April 15.

Passover always begins on the 14th day of Nisan, which in the Jewish calendar is the first month of the religious year and the seventh month of the civil year.

In some Jewish traditions, Passover is observed for seven days, while in others it is observed for eight days.

More information and context on Passover

The first records of the word Passover in reference to the Jewish festival come from the 1500s. It’s a translation of the Hebrew word pesaḥ and the noun form of the verb phrase pass over. The term is used in reference to the story of how the Angel of Death passed over the houses of the Israelites during a plague sent by God to kill the firstborn sons of the Egyptians.

In the account of this event in the book of Exodus, Moses is instructed by God to tell the Israelites to prepare a special meal, one that can be eaten quickly before they escape from Egypt. This meal included a roasted lamb as the main dish, along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread (bread that could be baked quickly, without needing time to rise). Moses instructed the Israelites to use the blood from the lamb to mark the doorways of their houses to keep them safe from the Angel of Death. The Israelites were told to repeat the meal each spring on the anniversary of their departure from Egypt. This annual observance came to be called Passover, and the ritual meal came to be called the Seder.

Today, Passover often involves a reading of the Haggadah, a book containing the order of service of the traditional Passover meal and including a telling of the story of the Exodus.

It is a tradition for Jews to end the Seder by singing or saying “Next year in Jerusalem” (or the Hebrew phrase that it’s translated from), which is typically considered an expression of Jewish unity done in remembrance of the Jews’ time in exile.

Traditional greetings for Passover include Chag Sameach (meaning “Happy Holiday”) and Chag Pesach Sameach (meaning “Happy Passover Holiday“).

What are some words that often get used in discussing Passover?

How is Passover discussed in real life?

Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It is well-known even among non-Jews.

 

Try using Passover!

True or False?

All Jewish people celebrate Passover for the same length of time.

How to use Passover in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Passover (1 of 2)

pass over

verb
(tr, adverb) to take no notice of; disregardthey passed me over in the last round of promotions
(intr, preposition) to disregard (something bad or embarrassing)we shall pass over your former faults

British Dictionary definitions for Passover (2 of 2)

Passover
/ (ˈpɑːsˌəʊvə) /

noun
Also called: Pesach, Pesah, Feast of the Unleavened Bread an eight-day Jewish festival beginning on Nisan 15 and celebrated in commemoration of the passing over or sparing of the Israelites in Egypt, when God smote the firstborn of the Egyptians (Exodus 12)Related adjective: paschal
another term for the Paschal Lamb

Word Origin for Passover

C16: from pass over, translation of Hebrew pesah, from pāsah to pass over
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

Cultural definitions for Passover (1 of 2)

Passover

The deliverance of the Israelites from the worst of the plagues of Egypt, and the annual festival kept afterward in memory of the event. Through Moses, God told the Israelites to prepare a special meal to be eaten in haste the evening before their escape from Egypt (see also Egypt) (see Exodus), with a whole roasted lamb as the main dish. The blood from the lamb was to be used to mark the Israelites' houses. That night, God would send the angel of Death to kill the firstborn males of the Egyptians (this was the worst of the plagues of Egypt), but God would see the blood on the Israelites' houses, and he would command his angel to “pass over” — to kill no one there. God told Moses that the Israelites were to repeat the meal each spring on the anniversary of their departure from Egypt. The Jews (see also Jews) keep the festival of Passover to this day.

notes for Passover

The Last Supper of Jesus and his Apostles was a Passover meal. The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus were explained by the Apostles as the new Passover of the New Testament.

Cultural definitions for Passover (2 of 2)

Passover

Among Jews (see also Jews), the festival commemorating the Exodus, the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (see also Egypt). During Passover, unleavened bread, called matzo, is eaten. In the course of the festival, the story of the Exodus is read.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with Passover

pass over

1

See pass by, def. 2.

2

See pass away.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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