• bunny •
Pronunciation: bê-nee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A lump or swelling. 2. A term of endearment for rabbits and, sometimes, for girls and women.
Notes: The plural of this word is bunnies. There is a rare diminutive, bunnikin, which centuries ago was used as the name of an early spring flower. The Easter Bunny is a holdover from an ancient Anglo-Saxon celebration of the goddess of spring and fertility, Eastre, from which we also derive Easter. The impressive birthrate of bunnies made them the perfect symbol for the goddess of fertility. The egg is also a symbol of rebirth and fertility. So Easter egg hunts are remnants of our pagan ancestry that have only recently been related to the story of the Resurrection.
In Play: The Western Indo-European languages, other than English and German, use some form of Hebrew Pesach "Passover" for "Easter": French Pâques, Portuguese Páscoa, Spanish Pascua, Italian Pasqua, Swedish Påsk, Russian Paskha. This is because the Last Supper was, according to Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke, a seder, the special dinner held on the first day of the Jewish commemoration of Passover. Jews around the world are celebrating Passover this week.
Word History: This good word should mean "a small bun", and guess what—it does! The origin of this word is Celtic bun "stump, bump", which was extended to the tail of a bunny, then to its entire rear end (at which point the variant bum arose) and, finally, to the entire rabbit. In the meantime, bun was borrowed by the French, who returned it some time later as bugne "boil, swelling", giving us bun in the culinary sense, not to mention bunion. The use of buns to refer to human bottoms and pastry rolls, amazingly enough, arose from the same source as bunny buns.