Whitsun, also known as Pentecost in the Christian calendar, is the seventh Sunday after Easter. Whitsun commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ (Acts of the Apostles chapter 2).


The name is a contraction of "White Sunday", attested in "The Holy-Ghost, which thou did send on Whit-Sunday" in the Old English homilies, and parallel to the mention of hwitmonedei in the early 13th-century Ancrene Riwle.[1] Walter William Skeat noted that the Anglo-Saxon word also appears in Icelandic hvitasunnu-dagr, but that in English the feast was always called Pentecoste until after the Norman Conquest, when white (hwitte) began to be confused with wit or understanding.

The name derives from the white garments worn by catechumens, those expecting to be baptized on that Sunday, when infant baptism was still uncommon. Thus it is centuries older than the tradition of the young women of the parish all coming to church or chapel in new white dresses on that day.

The following day is Whit Monday, a name coined to supersede the form Monday in Whitsun-week used by John Wycliffe and others.[2]

In Literature


  1. Both noted in Walter William Skeat, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. "Whitsun".
  2. Skeat.

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