Beltane

[bel-teyn, -tin]

Origin of Beltane

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for beltane

Beltane

noun
  1. an ancient Celtic festival with a sacrificial bonfire on May Day. It is also celebrated by modern pagans

Word Origin for Beltane

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

Word Origin and History for beltane

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