Halloween has its roots in two celebrations: the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian holiday All Saint’s Day. The spooky festival’s name, however, comes from only one.
• More from The Hot Word• Who is the “Jack” in “Jack O’Lantern?”• Meet Two Extinct Letters of the AlphabetSamhain is Gaelic for “summer’s end, and marks what has loosely been labeled the “Celtic New Year.” The end of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half.”
All Saint’s Day honors all of the Catholic saints. The Roman Catholic Church refers to it as the “Solemnity of All Saints.”
“Halloween” is a direct derivation of All Saints’ Day. All Hallows in Old English means “the feast of the saints.” “Halloween,” first attested in the 16th century, is a Scottish variant of All-Hallows-Even. The “Even” meant evening.
The spelling of the word was once “Hallowe’en,” in which the “v” was elided.
(Another major Halloween fact: Who is the “Jack” of “Jack O’ Lantern?” The scary answer can be found here.)
The current spelling of the holiday wasn’t adopted until the early 20th century.