Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Seder

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is seder. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

seder (often capitalized as Seder) is a service held in a Jewish home or community that includes a ceremonial dinner and that is held on the first evening, or first and second evenings, of Passover in commemoration of the exodus from Egypt.

// Ari enjoys the stories, songs, and rituals that accompany dinner on the night of the seder.

SEDER in Context

“For years, I kept my disdain for brisket to myself for fear of committing Jewish culinary treason. Eventually, I needed to know what all the fuss was about—and to feed a crowd for the first Passover seder that I was hosting. So I pulled out some Jewish cookbooks and decided on Joan Nathan’s recipe for Moroccan-style brisket from her book ‘Jewish Cooking in America.’ … It was a hit and delicious in a way that I had no idea brisket could be.” — Julie Giuffrida, The Los Angeles Times, 17 Dec. 2022

Did You Know?

Order and ritual are very important in the seder—so important that they are even reflected in its name: the English word seder is a transliteration of the Hebrew word sēdher, meaning “order.” The courses in the meal, as well as blessings, prayers, stories, and songs, are recorded in the Haggadah, a book that lays out the order of the Passover feast and recounts the story of Exodus. Each food consumed as part of the seder recalls an aspect of the Israelites’ 13th century BCE exodus from Egypt. For instance, matzo (unleavened bread) represents the haste with which the Israelites fled; maror (a mix of bitter herbs) recalls the bitterness of enslaved life; and a mixture of fruits and nuts called charoset (also rendered as charoses or haroset/haroses) symbolizes the clay or mortar the Israelites worked with during their Egyptian enslavement.

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