or Sa·main, sa·mh'in

[ sah-win ]
/ ˈsɑ wɪn /
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a festival of the ancient Celts, held around November 1 to celebrate the beginning of winter.
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Origin of Samhain

1885–90; <Irish; Old Irish samain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is Samhain?

Samhain (pronounced SAH-win) is an ancient Celtic harvest festival in celebration of the beginning of winter and a new year. (The Celts’ year was considered to start with the winter season on November 1.)

Many of the traditions associated with Halloween are thought to have originated with Samhain, and the word Samhain is sometimes used synonymously with Halloween.

However, Samhain is often considered a distinct holiday. It is sometimes celebrated as a religious observance in Pagan, Neopagan, and other traditions.

Samhain is sometimes also spelled Samain or Samh’in.

When is Samhain?

Samhain is observed on or around November 1. It’s sometimes considered to start on the evening of October 31 and end on the evening of November 1.

Some use Samhain as another name for Halloween, which is October 31.

More information and context on Samhain

Samhain originated as a festival of the ancient Celts in the British Isles marking the harvest and the new year. This time was believed to be the point in the year when the threshold between the physical world and the spirit realm (sometimes called Tír na nÓg in Celtic tradition) was at its thinnest, allowing crossover of creatures from the spirit world. Observance of this time among the ancient Celts is often thought to have involved practices believed to ensure safety, such as lighting bonfires, making ritual sacrifices, and dressing as such creatures.

Some of these traditions continued in different forms and are thought to have influenced how Halloween is celebrated. Some Samhain traditions are thought to have been incorporated into Christian holidays, such as All Saints’ Day, which is also observed on November 1 and is sometimes called Allhallows (the name from which Halloween derives).

Samhain is among the most important holidays in Pagan and Neopagan traditions, in which major festivals are held at the change of seasons. Samhain is often observed as a time to honor one’s ancestors.

Samhain is sometimes used as a literary word for Halloween, or as another word for Halloween when it’s observed in a way that’s separate from its modern commercial influences.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Samhain?

How is Samhain discussed in real life?

Samhain is closely associated with Halloween, and it is often thought to be the basis of many Halloween traditions. But it is also observed as a distinct holiday, including by some as a religious observance.


Try using Samhain!

True or False?

Samhain falls on the day before Halloween.

How to use Samhain in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Samhain

/ (ˈsɑːwɪn, ˈsaʊeɪn, ˈsaʊɪn) /

an ancient Celtic festival held on Nov 1 to mark the beginning of winter and the beginning of a new year. It is also celebrated by modern pagans

Word Origin for Samhain

from Irish, from Old Irish samain
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