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Why Is There an Apostrophe in “Hallowe’en”?

With the annual spooktacular quickly approaching, Grammar Girl answers a reader's question about the origins of "Hallowe'en"

By
Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

all hallows even halloween

Allegra Young asked, "What's your take on the apostrophe in 'Hallowe'en'? To use or not to use?"

One early spelling of "Halloween" was "All Hallows' Even," in which "even" meant "evening." The "all" and "s" were dropped, "hallows' " and "even" became a closed compound, and the apostrophe took the place of the "v," giving us "Hallowe'en"—just one of many transitional spellings along the way to "Halloween," which the Oxford English Dictionary shows as first appearing in 1786. Other spellings before "Halloween" included "Hallow-e'en," "Alhollon Eue," and "Halhalon evyn."

You can certainly use "Hallowe’en" if you want an 18th-century feel for your party invitations or decorations.

We celebrate Halloween on the last day of October because the holiday was originally tied to the Celtic calendar, in which November 1 was the start of the new year. The Catholic Church later adopted November 1 as All Saints' Day, and October 31 is also sometimes called All Saints' Eve.

Pumpkin photo from Shutterstock.

 

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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