Ash Wednesday

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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English Aschewednysday, Axwednesdai, &c., from asshe, axe (ash), &c. + Wednesdai, Wednysday (Wednesday), &c., from the custom of using the blessed ashes of the previous year's palm fronds (cf. Palm Sunday) to mark the heads of the congregation on the day.


Ash Wednesday (plural Ash Wednesdays)

  1. (Christianity) The Wednesday 46 days before Easter in a given year, (Catholicism) traditionally observed as the beginning of Lent and a day of strict abstention from certain foods and pleasures.
    • 1834, Penny Cyclopaedia, Vol. II, p. 454:
      Pope Gregory the Great introduced the sprinkling of ashes... which gave it the name of Ash-Wednesday.

Derived terms[edit]