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Beltane

[bel-teyn, -tin] /ˈbɛl teɪn, -tɪn/
noun
1.
an ancient Celtic festival observed on May Day in Scotland and Ireland to mark the beginning of summer.
Origin of Beltane
late Middle English
1375-1425
1375-1425; late Middle English (Scots) < Scots Gaelic bealltainn, Old Irish bel(l)taine, perhaps equivalent to *bel- an obscure element, perhaps the name of a supernatural person + tene fire
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for Beltane
Historical Examples
  • The Highlanders have a proverb, “he is between two Beltane fires.”

  • The Beltane customs seem to have been the same as elsewhere.

    Balder The Beautiful, Vol. I. Sir James George Frazer
  • The fuel was piled on a hill-top, and at the fire the Beltane cake was cooked.

  • The following account of Beltane is extracted from a chapter dealing with Highland superstitions.

    Balder The Beautiful, Vol. I. Sir James George Frazer
  • There is some difference of opinion as to the particular day on which the Beltane festival was held in this country.

    Folk Lore

    James Napier
  • In the Parish of Logierait, Beltane is celebrated by the shepherds and cowherds in the following manner.

    Folk Lore

    James Napier
  • The Professor writes very positively as to Beltane day being the second day of May, not the first day as is supposed.

    Folk Lore

    James Napier
  • The Professor is also mistaken in stating that the Beltane fair of Peebles was to be kept for eight days.

    Folk Lore

    James Napier
  • The grandmothers of the children who now play in the village could remember the Beltane bonfires, and the wild dances around them.

    A Month in Yorkshire Walter White
  • Of all these varieties of human sacrifice, those offered for fertility, probably at Beltane or Midsummer, were the most important.

British Dictionary definitions for Beltane

Beltane

/ˈbɛlteɪn; -tən/
noun
1.
an ancient Celtic festival with a sacrificial bonfire on May Day. It is also celebrated by modern pagans
Word Origin
C15: from Scottish Gaelic bealltainn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for Beltane
n.

early 15c., from Lowland Scottish, from Gaelic bealltainn "May 1," important Celtic religious rite marking the start of summer, probably literally "blazing fire," from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn" (see bleach (v.)) + Old Irish ten "fire," from PIE *tepnos, related to Latin tepidus "warm." But this derivation of the second element is hotly disputed by some on philological grounds, and fires were equally important in the other Celtic holidays.

The rubbish about Baal, Bel, Belus imported into the word from the Old Testament and classical antiquity, is outside the scope of scientific etymology. [OED]
Also known as "Old May Day," because after the 1752 calendar reform it continued to be reckoned according to Old Style; it was one of the quarter-days of ancient Scotland.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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