Adventures in Etymology – Hallow

As it’s near the end of October, in this Adventure in Etymology we’re investigating the origins of the word hallow, as in Halloween.

Halloween in Hallow

Hallow [ˈhæləʊ / ˈhæloʊ] is an old word that means:

  • A saint; a holy person; an apostle.
  • (plural) The relics or shrines of saints or non-Christian gods.

It comes from the Middle English halwe (saint, holy thing, shrine), from the Old English hālga (saint), from the Proto-Germanic *hailagô (holy person), from *hailagaz (holy, sacred), rom *hailaz (whole, intact, hale, healthy), from the PIE *kóylos (healthy, whole) [source].

The word Halloween comes from the Scots Hallow evin/even, from Allhallow evin, from Allhallow (all the saints) and evin (evening) [source].

English words from the same roots include holy, hale (healthy, sound, robust), as in hale and hearty, hail (to greet, salute, call) and whole [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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2 thoughts on “Adventures in Etymology – Hallow

  1. I once saw “Hallowe’en” translated into Welsh as “Nos Calan Gaeaf” which I think comes out literally “Th eve of the first day of the month of Winter”. Am I right? Has it to do with the Celtic calendar?

  2. The first day of winter (1st November) is known as Calan Gaeaf in Welsh – it first appeared in a 13th century manuscript as Kalan Gayaf. Halloween is Nos Galan Gaeaf or Noson Galan Gaeaf. Both mean the “Night of the First Day of Winter”.

    According to Wikipedia, it was an “Ysbrydnos (spirit night) when spirits are abroad. Traditionally, people avoid churchyards, stiles, and crossroads, since spirits are thought to gather there.”

    It was traditionally a harvest festival when there was feasting, dancing and bonfires.

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