Halloween vocabulary for English learners

Halloween vocabulary for English learners

As every year, the most terrifying night of the year arrives, and one of the inevitable stops in the autumn vocabulary of English language. Depending on your country, you probably know about this holiday, although maybe you don’t know much about it. Regardless of which option applies to you, it is very likely that you know about the classic U.S. horror films that have spread through the whole world for decades, like Hitchcock’s Psycho, or The Shining. You also probably know some famous characters like poor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who runs away from the crazed killer Michael Myers on a Halloween night of 1978, while John Carpenter’s music had you on the edge of your seat.

Halloween Movies to Watch

Before entering the Halloween vocabulary, we will talk a little about the origins of the party. It is a celebration whose roots are in the ancient Celtic tradition. When the Celts lived in Ireland, France and Britain (about 2,000 years ago), they had an agricultural festival called Samhain, where they celebrated the end of summer and the end of the harvests. Subsequently, Christianity established the All Hallows’ Eve Saint’s day, on November 1. We find the first reference similar to the current name in the Scottish language during the 16th century: Allhallow-even. This word changed in the passage of time to be Halloween as we know it today, celebrated on October 31.

Celts believed that on October 31, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead disappeared, making ghosts and spirits come back to lure on the earth. In order to repel them, they lighted bonfires and wore costumes as they left their houses so ghosts would think of them as fellow spirits who were wandering too. That’s where the Halloween costumes tradition comes from.

In the 19th century Halloween was brought to North America by Irish and Scottish immigrants. Some words of today’s vocabulary come from old traditions, such as the famous trick or treating. In the past, poor people asked for food in exchange for a prayer for the dead. Nowadays, children go from door to door in costumes asking for sweets (treat), or offer a trick if they receive nothing.

There are also the famous carved pumpkin or Jack-o-lantern, from a Scottish legend about a farmer named Jack who cheated the devil and refused to let him go, unless he was promised to never be sent to hell, so Jack restlessly wanders the earth, carrying around a carved turnip with a candle inside.

This season is also an excellent opportunity to learn new English words. There’s even ESL Halloween activities and vocabulary games to make the classes a lot more thematic and entertaining.

Now that you know a little more about this tradition, we will show you some of the words you will need to enjoy this season:

Spooky This word has a similar nature to that of ‘scary’, but it’s used to describe a less intense feeling of being ‘scared’ per se. 
Freaky This word is used to describe something abnormal or strange, and also used on scary situations or persons.
This word is used to describe supernatural things or events.
Grim Reaper This is the personification of death. It’s the famous character that wears a long, hooded black robe and carries a scythe around to collect the souls of the dead. 
Werewolf It means “wolf-man”. This is the word used to describe those who turn into wolves during a full moon night.
Witch A woman with magical powers. Long ago, people believed that witches could turn themselves into cats.
Wizard The male version of a witch, also known as warlock. 
Zombie A dead body (corpse) that comes alive and chases humans to eat them.
Tombstones This is the tomb that locates a grave and it has the name of the buried person, dates and some message.
Graveyard Another name for cemetery; where people are buried.
Candy corns A very typical Halloween candy of North America. Its name comes from the resemblance of corn niblets and the corn syrup used to make it. 
Black cats They are related to a lot of superstitions (bad luck for some, omens of death and so on). They are a classical element of Halloween because of witches.
Scarecrows Although their original use was intended to scare birds away from harvest fields, they became a Halloween symbol. Scarecrows are (from a visual point of view) associated with hanging corpses. It would be scary to find a human hanging on a stick in the middle of a dark field, wouldn’t it?
Haunted houses When a place is haunted, it means that spirits or ghosts live in it. In Halloween, there are attractions that simulate haunted houses, or even group excursions to make walk-throughs on real-haunted houses or places.
Casket Another name for coffin.
Demons/ devils Evil spirits.
Fangs Sharp and pointy front teeth that can pierce flesh (like vampires).
Ghost An undead spirit that wanders and haunts.
Bloody, sanguinary.
Witch Brew A harmful, diabolical mixture or concoction prepared by witches.
Mausoleum A cemetery building that houses the coffins of rich or famous people or members of the same family.
Spell A magic enchantment made by witches or wizards.
Wand A stick used to cast spells or perform magic.
Witchcraft Magic practiced by witches.
Monster A horrid imaginary creature.
Cape or cloak A garment of different lengths, fastened around the neck. Usually worn by vampires, witches and wizards. 
Broomstick A brush with a long handle of wood, used by witches to fly. They are very popular in the Harry Potter sagas.
Bats Flying mammals believed to be vampires in their animal form. 
Soul cakes Traditional cakes baked as a gift for the spirits of the dead.
Goosebumps When your skin gets all tingly (due to feeling cold) after experiencing something very scary.

Now you can use your new, creepy collection of words to disguise yourself as a frightening being and enjoy your Halloween! 

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