This special day has its origins in the culture of the people that lived in Western Europe, mainly the UK and Ireland, 2,000 years ago! These people, the Celts, celebrated the end of the summer period and the start of the cold, wet winter that we have in these parts because they believed the spirits of the dead could walk among us. To protect themselves, they dressed up and lit fires – traditions that seem to have evolved into our modern habits of wearing fancy dress and having parties!

Some important Halloween vocabulary:

dress up (verb, regular): wear a costume, put on special clothes in the style of Halloween

dress up as (+person, character): wear a costume and maybe also wear makeup so that you look like a famous person or thing, e.g. I’m going to dress up as a vampire for the Halloween party

pumpkin (noun): this is a common vegetable grown around this time of year, similar to a butternut squash, which you can carve into crazy shapes. It’s delicious too! 

witch (noun): a common Halloween character, due to their connection with death, evil and magic

trick-or-treat (noun): this is a practice that was more popular in America, but has caught on in Britain too – children get dressed up as Halloween characters then go from door to door in their neighbourhood, ringing the bell and asking for sweets (treat) or threatening to do a ‘trick’, in this case something bad. They say “trick or treat!”

go in fancy dress – wear a costume that resembles a particular character or recognisable style. At Halloween, it’s normally something “scary” or relating to horror e.g. a zombie, a lifeguard, Donald Trump.


If you want to learn English, you should find out about the cultural traditions of the country. If you stay in the U.K. or America during Halloween, you should definitely go to a Halloween party!