Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the night of 31st October, when children wear costumes and go trick-or-treating

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve (in its old form of ‘Even’), the night before All Saints’ or All Hallows’ Day, which falls on November 1st. The word Halloween is of Scottish origin and was first recorded in the mid 16th century.


Halloween has been spelled in several different ways over its history, but the form Halloween is preferred today. Although Halloween was originally a Scottish festivity, celebrating Halloween has become popular throughout the UK in recent decades. This is probably due to a combination of the influence of American popular culture, where it figures heavily, and the fact that it offers both children and adults the opportunity to get dressed up and behave in ways that are normally frowned on. Halloween‘s supernatural associations may derive from the fact that in the old Celtic calendar October 31st was the last night of the year, a time when witches and ghosts were believed to be abroad. Such associations tend to be played down nowadays in favour of carved pumpkins and trick or treating, although spooky costumes remain very popular.


“Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve.”
(Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree)

Related words

jack-o’-lantern, fancy dress, candy, pumpkin, trick or treat

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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