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13 Wicked Words For A Fun (And Fright) Filled Halloween

Halloween is one of the most beloved (and bedeviling) occasions of the year. Halloween is that one special night of the year when all of the spooky spectres and menacing monsters come out to give everybody a severe case of the heebie-jeebies—and eat a ton of candy! Halloween isn’t just a great night for scares and sweets, though, as it also plays host to a ton of awesome words. We gathered up a dozen of our favorite Halloween-related words that help to make October 31 such an eerie and spectacular day of the year.

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Allhallows Eve

Allhallows Eve is another name for Halloween. Although Halloween is not a religious holiday, it occurs the night before the Christian holiday of All Saint’s Day, also known as Allhallows, held on November 1. In fact, the name Halloween is a shortening of Allhallow’s even. (The word even was at one time used to mean “evening” or “eve.”)

Both the names Allhallows Eve and Halloween are recorded back to the 1550s. The name of Allhallows uses an older meaning of hallow in the sense of a “holy person” or “saint,” and Allhallows is a day to honor all of the Christian saints.

trick or treat

Trick or treat! This thinly-veiled threat is said by children in the hopes of getting candy (a treat) with the implication that they will play a prank (a trick) on a candyless homeowner. Of course, costumed children say this phrase even if they don’t plan to prank anyone. And this phrase also refers to the act of wearing a Halloween costume while going door to door to ask for candy, which is called trick-or-treating.

Trick-or-treating has an interesting history, which we explore in this article about its origins. There’s some speculation the activity itself can be traced back to ancient Celtic traditions. But the term may date back to the 1920s, when it made its way to North America and puzzled some on the receiving end of the begging.

candy corn

Traditionally, the meanest, cruelest tricks are reserved for the unfortunate souls who give out candy corn, an often controversial candy. It’s not corn, it’s debatably candy—so what is it? (And what’s your take on the other great food debates?)

Like most candy, candy corn is mostly made out of sugar and corn syrup. Other ingredients usually include vanilla flavoring or marshmallow creme. Candy corn is actually pretty old, being invented in the 1880s. Because it was often marketed toward farmers, candy corn had tasty names such as “Chicken Corn” and “Chicken Feed.” To the many candy corn haters out there, these names would still accurately describe the taste of candy corn.

 

Sink your teeth into the origins of the names your favorite candies.

jack-o’-lantern

You probably know that a jack-o’-lantern is a hollowed out pumpkin that has a face carved into it with a candle inside. But just who is the Jack in jack-o’-lantern?

According to one particular Irish legend, jack-o’-lanterns are named after a character named Stingy Jack. Long story short, Stingy Jack liked to play tricks on the Devil, who got his revenge once Jack died. Jack was cursed to wander the dark night with only a candle to light his way, which he carried in a lantern carved out of vegetables. This ghostly wanderer was called “Jack of the Lantern” and then “Jack-o’Lantern.” Spooky!

 

Find out more about the history of the term jack-o’-lantern here.

Boo!

Did we scare you? The word boo is commonly used to scare people or is said to be the sound that ghosts make. And this isn’t anything new.

As far back as the early 1700s, the word boo was defined in print as a word used “to frighten children.” Later, it would become the common sound supposedly made by ghosts or other creepy bogeymen. But why? It could be that boo became a scary word simply because it sounds like it should be. Boo has a perfect combination of a consonant and vowel sound that come together to create a starling, loud sound. Boo!

monstrosity

Hopefully, that noise you heard was just your friend shouting Boo! and not some snarling monstrosity. Monstrosity is a neat alternative to the word monster. It can also refer to the act of being monstrous. The word monstrosity shares a history with monstrous, as they both come from the Latin mōnstrōsus. When it gets dark on Halloween night, you’ll need to be careful of the vampires, ghouls, zombies, and other monstrosities that lurk in the shadows.

werewolf

Awoooooo! Speaking of monstrosities, I think I heard a werewolf! A werewolf is a human being that has turned into a wolf (or wolf monster) and is usually capable of frequently transforming between man and beast.

The word werewolf comes from the Old English werwulf, which is a combination of the word wer, meaning “man,” and wulf, meaning “wolf.” So, when we say “werewolf,” we are essentially saying “manwolf.” This means that it would be correct to refer to other half-man beasts by names such as “werecat,” “werepig,” or “werebear.”

fiend

Next, we have a pair of delightfully devilish words. The word fiend can refer to an evil spirit, a demon, or any wicked creature or person. Sometimes, fiend is specifically used to refer to Satan, the Devil himself. Yikes!

Sometimes, though, fiend is used informally to mean someone is addicted to something or is really interested in it. For example, someone might be called a coffee fiend or a poker fiend.

bedevil

The word bedevil means “to torment diabolically,” or “to cause confusion.” You know, like a devil might do. The word bedevil can also mean to possess someone with a devil or evil spirit. Like a devil might also do. The word bedevil is recorded back to 1760s and combines the word devil with the prefix be- that is used to form other verbs, such as befriend or become.

Jeepers creepers

Jeepers! If you see something scary, you can shout Jeepers! or Jeepers creepers! to express your shock or terror. Jeepers is an Americanism that goes back to the late 1920s. This exclamation is actually an altering of the name Jesus. Yes, that Jesus. The longer jeepers creepers, then, would be an alteration of Jesus Christ.

 

Don’t let these additional words for a Halloween night sneak up on you. Learn them now.

hocus-pocus

Watch out that a witch doesn’t put a spell on you. Hocus-pocus is a phrase that is chanted when casting spells or hexes, similar to words like abracadabra or alakazam. Hocus-pocus can also refer to trickery, deception, or parlor tricks. This makes sense when you consider that hocus-pocus is thought to have come from a rhyming phrase meant to sound like Latin and used by jugglers and magicians as far back as the 1600s.

masquerade

It is time to get in costume and go to the masquerade. Masquerade is another word for “costume party,” especially one that features elaborate masks and costumes. It can also refer to the costumes worn at such a soiree. Masquerade is also used as a noun to refer to a deceptive farce or an act done with false pretenses. As a verb, masquerade can mean to disguise oneself or to falsely pretend to be something you’re not.

phantasmagoric

We’ll end the festivities with a very fancy word. Phantasmagoric is an adjective that means something has a deceptive appearance or resembles an illusion or a dream. The noun form of this word, phantasmagoria, is equally fun to say and refers to a scene that resembles an optical illusion or a dream. Both of these words are based on the word phantasm, a spooky word that can be used as a synonym for ghost. And that word phantasm? It’s ultimately from Greek—and is the source of the word fantasy and, well, fancy.

Quiz

Not scared yet? Or were you hiding under the covers the whole time? You can test your courage by reviewing our haunting word list and then taking our quiz about the bone-chilling batch of words you just read. And don’t worry, there aren’t any monsters hiding in the quiz. They are all out trick or treating!

 

Ready for some quick thrills? Learn where the iconic phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” came from. Perfect reading for a dark and stormy night, indeed.