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English Language Vocabulary: Halloween


English Language Vocabulary: Halloween

Halloween is a largely secular holiday celebrated every year on October 31 in the United States. Activities associated with the Halloween holiday include dressing up in costumes, trick or treating, carving pumpkins, visiting haunted houses, telling scary stories, watching horror films, and attending Halloween parties.

Although the holiday is celebrated in other parts of the world, the traditions of modern Halloween are predominantly American. Learners of English as a second language who live in the United States must therefore learn to talk about the holiday. The following sections provide the most important vocabulary for talking about Halloween.

Halloween Nouns

The following nouns are words fit for Halloween:

  • apparition – an unusual or unexpected sight, a ghost
  • bat – any of a widely distributed order of nocturnal usually frugivorous or insectivorous flying mammals that have wings formed from four elongated digits of the forelimb covered by a cutaneous membrane and that have adequate visual capabilities but often rely on echolocation
  • bogeyman – a monstrous imaginary figure used in threatening children, a terrifying or dreaded person or thing
  • candy – a confection made with sugar and often flavoring and filling
  • Jack-o’-lantern – a lantern made of the rind of a pumpkin in which holes are cut to represent eyes, nose, and mouth
  • mummy – a body embalmed or treated for burial with preservatives in the manner of the ancient Egyptians
  • poltergeist – a noisy usually mischievous ghost held to be responsible for unexplained noises
  • pumpkin – edible gourds which typically have a thick orange rind and are cooked as vegetables or used in sweet dishes
  • skeleton – the bones or bony framework of an animal body considered as a whole
  • vampire – the reanimated body of a dead person believed to come from the grave at night and suck the blood of persons asleep
  • werewolf – a person transformed into a wolf or capable of assuming a wolf’s form
  • witch – one that is credited with usually malignant supernatural powers
  • zombie – a person held to resemble the so-called walking dead

Halloween Adjectives

Use the following adjectives to describe the festivities of the Halloween holiday:

  • bloodcurdling – arousing fright or horror
  • chilling – gravely disturbing or frightening
  • creepy – having a creeping of the flesh, or chill shuddering feeling, caused by horror or repugnance
  • dark – characterized by absence of light; devoid of or deficient in light; unilluminated
  • dreadful – full of dread, fear, or awe; fearful, terrified, timid; reverential
  • eerie – fear–inspiring; gloomy, strange, weird
  • frightening – scary, inspiring fear
  • ghastly – terrifyingly horrible to the senses
  • macabre – characterized by or suggestive of the gruesomeness of the dance macabre; grim, horrific, repulsive
  • scary – terrifying, frightful
  • spooky – of, pertaining to, or characteristic of spirits or the supernatural; frightening, eerie

Halloween Verbs

The following verbs are useful for talking about the traditions of Halloween:

  • cackle – to laugh especially in a harsh or sharp manner
  • carve – to cut with care or precision
  • enchant – to exert magical influence upon; to bewitch, lay under a spell
  • haunt – to visit or inhabit as a ghost
  • trick-or-treat – a children’s Halloween practice of asking for treats from door to door under threat of playing tricks on those who refuse

Halloween is an American holiday celebrated every year on October 31. Learners of English as a second language can use the above vocabulary to learn to talk about the traditions and festivities of the Halloween holiday.


Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cat. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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