Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (Words about religion, Part 2)

[This entry is an excerpt from the chapter Words about Religion in Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day

Figure 167: Jack o' Lantern.[i]

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day

Another major Christian celebration, at least for many Christian denominations, is All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallow’s Day or Hallowmas, among other names (saints were known as hallows in Old English, as we shall see). In Spanish, it is called Día de Todos los Santos, which literally means ‘all saints’ day’ or ‘day of all saints’. So, what is a saint? In some Christian traditions, a saint is primarily ‘a person officially recognized, especially by canonization, as being entitled to public veneration and capable of interceding for people on earth’ (AHD). For other Christians, a saint is just ‘a person acknowledged as holy or virtuous and regarded in Christian faith as being in heaven after death’ (COED). More informally, and non-religiously, the word saint can be used to refer to ‘an extremely virtuous person’ (AHD). Protestant Christians generally reject the Catholic saints and in particular the belief that they can intercede before God for those who pray to them, something that Catholics believe, which they consider to be a form of idolatry. To the extent that Protestant Christians use the term saint, it is to refer to anyone who is Christian or has been baptized. (Mormons use the term to refer to anyone who is a Mormon.) Later we will look at the origin of the cognate words Eng. saint ~ Sp. santo.

In early Christianity, however, saints were venerated by all Christians and it became a tradition to celebrate them every year on the day of their death. Catholics and other Christian denominations still have a calendar of saints’ feast days for this purpose (Sp. santoral) and in some Catholic countries, one’s saint’s day (the day of the saint that one is named after) is much more important than one’s birthday, for example.[1] This day is traditionally known as día del santo or, more formally, onomástica (in Spanish America) or onomástico (in Spain).[2] Eventually, though, as more and more saints started to fill the calendar, a catch-all day to celebrate the many less-well known and anonymous ones was established in the early 7th century, namely All Saints’ Day.

All Saints’ Day has taken place on November 1 for the last 1,300 years or so. The purpose of this day is to celebrate all saints, known and unknown, and it is still celebrated in the Catholic Church as well as in some Protestant churches. As we have seen, until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, all Western European Christians were Catholic, and Christianity in the Americas descends from Western European Christianity. And although official saints are rejected by Protestants, many of them, such as the Anglican and (many) Lutheran churches, have kept the holiday and changed what they mean by saint, namely a dead or baptized Christian.

The Christian tradition of having a catch-all day to celebrate saints is said to have started in the early 7th century, in 609 CE, when Pope Boniface IV rededicated the Roman Pantheon, the temple to all the Roman gods, to Christian martyrs.[3] This replaced an earlier tradition of celebrating All Martyrs Day that started in the 3rd century, when the Pope at that time made May 13, the final day of Lemuria, one of the two Roman festivals dedicated to the departed ancestors, the day to celebrate all martyrs.[4]

Two centuries later, another pope, Gregory IV, moved the feast to November 1 and expanded it to celebrating all saints, not just martyrs, and to that, the celebration of All Souls Day was added on November 2. It is strongly suspected that the new date was chosen because some pre-Christian European cultures, in particular the Celtic ones, which were dominant in Europe before the Romans and, later, the Germanic peoples conquered most of it, remembered the dead around that time, in a celebration known as Samhain, which marked the end of their year, which culminated in the harvest, and the beginning of the winter and, thus, the new year. Many traditional cultures in the northern hemisphere had a special celebration at the end of the summer (that is, the end of warm weather), which was associated with life, and the beginning of winter (cold weather), associated with death. Our Thanksgiving can also be seen as a modern version of a harvest festival (Sp. fiesta de la cosecha).[ii]

So, the setting of this celebration on November 1st is probably just one more of the many attempts of early Christianity to take over or coopt key pagan celebrations in order to gain acceptance, as we saw was the case with Christmas and Easter, which are based on the winter solstice (shortest day of the year) and the spring equinox, respectively. The fact that many of the traditions associated with Samhain continued to be celebrated around All Saints’ Day indicates a connection was made between the two in the popular mind of many Christians. There are also signs that some of the Roman customs related to their cult of the dead, such as purifying homes of the spirits of the dead, may have also lived on in parts of the former Roman Empire, such as Italy.

So now that we have determined the origin of the November 1 celebration, what is the deal with October 31 or Halloween? It turns out that in the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean, in the Semitic and Greek worlds where Christianity got started, the day ended at dusk and thus the next day started in what for us would be the evening before the (for us) actual day, at sundown. Because of this, many traditional Christian holidays start in what to us is the evening of the holiday’s previous day, the holiday’s eve, cf. Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, etc. The evening before All Saints’ Day, that is, October 31, is known traditionally in English as All Hallows’ (Day’s) Eve or, more commonly, in a compressed version of this phrase, Halloween. Actually, the word Halloween, also spelled Hallow-e’en or Hallow e’en and first attested (found in writing) in the 18th century, seems to be a Scottish shortening of Allhallow-even ‘All Hallow’s Eve’, a term attested already in the mid-16th century. In Spanish, this day (or actually evening) is called Víspera de Todos los Santos, literally ‘All Saints’ Day’s Eve’ (see below for more information about the unrelated words Eng. eve and Sp. víspera).[5]

October 31
November 1
November 2
All Hallows’ (Day’s) Eve
All Hallows’ Day
(All Saint’s Day)
All Souls’ Day
Víspera de
Todos los Santos
(Día de)
Todos los Santos
Conmemoración de
los Fieles Difuntos

As we saw, the day after All Saints’ Day, that is, November 2, is known as All Souls’ Day in English, though Catholics also know it as Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (in Latin: Commemoratio omnium fidelium defunctorum) and in the Anglican Church, it is also known as The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. All Souls’ Day is dedicated to the ‘faithfully departed’, that is to say, the dead, but only those who had been baptized. It is formally known in Spanish as Día de los Difuntos or Conmemoración a los Fieles Difuntos, though it is also more informally known as Día de los Muertos or, less commonly, Día de las Ánimas.[6] In Spanish-speaking countries, November 2 is the day in which people traditionally visit the tombstones of their departed relatives. In the Christian tradition, it is a day to pray for the souls of the departed, especially those who might still be in Purgatory, which in Catholic doctrine is ‘a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven’ (COED).[7]

This two-day period (November 1-2), plus the eve of the first day’s (October 31), which was dedicated to celebrating the dead, including saints, martyrs, and the departed in general, was traditionally known in English as the Allhallowtide triduum or, more simply, Allhallowtide, Hallowtide, or Allsaintstide, all words that are now archaic.[8] More modern equivalents of these names are the Hallowmas season or the time or season of All Saints’ Day. In Spanish, the phrase Todos los Santos is sometimes used informally to refer to this 2-or-3-day period of celebration.[iii]

The word tide [ˈtʰaɪ̯d] in the old-fashioned names we just saw is now only used with the sense ‘the alternate rising and falling of the sea due to the attraction of the moon and sun’ (COED), but in Old English, it meant ‘time, period, era’. The original sense of this word is also found in now uncommon (but not obsolete) expressions such as Christmastide ‘Christmas time’, Eastertide ‘Easter time’, eveningtide or eventide ‘evening time’, and morningtide ‘morning time’.

Figure 168: All Souls’ Day, oil painting by Jakob Schikaneder (1888)[iv]
Elderly woman next to the tomb of a loved one

The words hallow, saint and related words

The English word hallow [ˈhæ.loʊ̯] that we saw in several terms referring to this season has an interesting story. This word is rather rare in modern English, at least in North-American English. The derived adjective hallowed, meaning ‘highly venerated’ or ‘sacrosanct’ (AHD), is perhaps more common, often heard in phrases such as hallowed ground or hallowed war heroes. The word hallow is today mostly only a verb meaning ‘make holy’ or ‘consecrate’, but in earlier times it could also be a noun that meant ‘a saint or holy person’, which is the sense it has in the expression All Hallows’ Day or All Hallows’ Eve.

The English noun hallow, which descends from Old English hālga ‘holy one, saint’,  could also be used to refer to shrines or relics associated with holy personsor, in pre-Christian times, godssuch as magical objects. In Middle English, this noun changed to halwe and it came to mean ‘saint’, as well as ‘holy thing, shrine’. The noun hallow is archaic in Modern English and, in some dialects it can be said to be obsolete. In recent times, many English speakers have probably encountered the noun hallow for the first time in the last novel of the Harry Potter series of children’s books, which had the title Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In this novel, the word hallows referred to magical objects, since the deathly hallows are three highly powerful magical objects that were created by Death.

As we just saw, the Modern English verb (to) hallow means ‘to make holy, consecrate, sanctify’ or ‘venerate, greatly revere’. It comes from Old English hālgian, which also meant ‘to hallow, sanctify, make holy’. In Middle English, the word changed to halwen, but its meaning was the same. This verb is equivalent to Spanish bendecir ‘to bless’, consagrar ‘consecrate’, and santificar ‘sanctify’. Although the noun and the verb are homonymous in Modern English, that is, they sound and are spelled the same way, we have seen that they were slightly different in earlier times, sharing a root but having different endings or suffixes, which were lost in Modern English.

Both the verb and the noun hallow are related to the adjective holy, which was hāliġ or hāleġ in Old English and which meant ‘holy, consecrated, sacred, venerated, godly, saintly’. They all share the same root, a root that is also found in words like whole and health. Eng. whole, the most basic of all these words, comes from Old Eng. hāl, meaning ‘healthy, safe, whole, free from injury’. The adjective holy is derived from whole, by the addition of the adjectival suffix -y, the same suffix found in words like messy, derived from mess, and runny, derived from run.[9] Although it is hard to know exactly, the OED guesses that the meaning of the Old English version of holy meant ‘that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated’ (OED).

When the Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity in the 7th century, the Old English words holy, hallow, and to hallow came to be used to translate Latin Christian words. The adjective holy translated the Latin adjective sanctus/sancta (masculine and feminine forms) that meant as ‘holy, saintly’ (see above). The noun hallow translated the Latin nouns sanctus/sancta that meant ‘saint’ (a person), source of Sp. santo (typically shortened to san before a name) and santa and derived from the adjective that we just saw.[10]

The Old English verb to hallow came to be used to translate the Latin verb sanctifĭcāre ‘to make holy’, source of the learned cognates Spanish santificar and English sanctify, both meaning ‘to make holy’. The noun saint was borrowed later into English, in the 12th century, from Fr. saint (fem. seinte), meaning both ‘a saint’ and ‘a holy relic’, the same as hallow. The word saint has come to replace hallow to a large extent in English, though without the meaning ‘holy relic’ any longer, having rendered the word noun hallow archaic if not obsolete in most dialects of English. The English verb sanctify was borrowed later, in the 14th century, from Fr. saintefier. This verb has pretty much replaced the verb to hallow.

By the way, the words Eng. saint and Sp. santo/a come from Lat. sanctus/a, passive participle of the verb sancīre that meant primarily ‘to consecrate, appoint as sacred’, that is, ‘to render, make or appoint as sacred or inviolable by a religious act’, something very close to what the verb to hallow meant in Old English. Thus, the Latin participle sānctus meant something like ‘made inviolable or established as sacred’. In Late Latin, this participle was converted into a noun, as we have seen, meaning what it means today, namely ‘a saint’, ‘a person who lives a holy and virtuous life’. As we saw earlier, in Catholic and Orthodox creed, a saint is ‘a person officially recognized, especially by canonization, as being entitled to public veneration and capable of interceding for people on earth’ (AHD).

The words eve and vesper

In addition to the word hallow ‘saint’, in the word Halloween, and its fuller form All Hallows’ Eve, we also find the word eve. As we mentioned earlier, in certain eastern cultures, the day started at dusk, not at midnight as it does now, on what we now call the eve of the day. Modern English eve, pronounced [ˈiv] comes from Old English æfen, pronounced [ˈæ.ven], which descends from Proto-Germanic *ēbanþs. This Old English word referred primarily to ‘the time between sunset and darkness’, whereas in Modern English, eve means ‘the day or period of time immediately before an event’ and, in particular, ‘the evening or day before a religious festival’ (COED), a sense it acquired in the 13th century. The equivalent of Eng. eve in Spanish is víspera. Sp. víspera [ˈɾa] ‘day before’ comes from the Latin noun vespĕra ‘evening, eventide’. We find a descendant of this Latin word in Eng. vespers ‘a service of evening prayer’ (COED).[11]

The word eve is related to the word evening [ˈiv.nɪŋ], from Old English æfnung ‘the coming of evening, sunset, time around sunset’. The meaning of the word evening is somewhat flexible, though one dictionary defines it as ‘the period of time at the end of the day, between late afternoon and bedtime’ (COED). This is a hard one to translate into Spanish, since there are several words that can be used to express this meaning. One of them is tarde, a word that as an adverb means ‘late’ as in Llegar tarde ‘to arrive late’.[12] As a noun, however, tarde is typically often translated as afternoon, but it is a period of time that goes from noon (or, rather, after lunch, which comes quite late in some Spanish-speaking countries, such as Spain) until it gets dark, when the noche ‘night’ starts, which thus includes the early evening time.[13] For the late evening time, after it is fully dark, which can be quite early in winter and quite late in summer in the northern hemisphere, noche is used to translate evening in Spanish. The compound tarde-noche is also sometimes used to translate Eng. evening, though it is quite rare.[14]


mediodía ‘noon’

tarde ‘after lunch’
noche ‘after dark’

Going back to our Hallowmas celebrations, we have seen that, traditionally, the celebration of All Saints’ Day, which is on November 1st, started on the evening before, namely, on October 31. The traditional name for this time in English is Halloween, or Hallowe’en, pronounced today either [ˈhæ.lə.ˌwin] or [ˌhæ.lə.ˈwin], with the main stress on either the first or the last syllable. As we saw, this word is nothing but a contraction of the phrase All Hallows’ Even. The word even comes from Scots, the dialect of English used in the Lowlands of Scotland. In this dialect, eve and evening are both even, usually contracted to e’en or een.

Sp. víspera ‘the previous evening’ is a cognate of Eng. vesper, a late-14th century loanword from Latin through French vespre. Eng. vesper now means ‘evening prayer’, but which used to mean ‘evening’. These words come from Lat. vesper - vesperī that meant ‘the evening’ and ‘the evening star’ and which also had a feminine form vespera ‘evening, even-tide’. This Latin word goes back to Proto-Indo-European *wek(ʷ)speros ‘evening, night’. The first part of this word is a root that is cognate with the Eng. word west (and thus Sp. oeste, which is a Germanic loanword). Lat. vesper is a cognate of Ancient Greek ἕσπερος (hésperos), a word that English has borrowed as Hesper or Hesperus, a fancy name for ‘the evening star’ (i.e. Venus).[15]

Traditions such as trick-or-treating

In England, there existed many Halloween-related traditions, such as trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, and costume parties, which have eventually morphed into the modern-day Halloween traditions of today. These traditions are thought to have originated from pagan Celtic harvest festivals, in particularly the Gaelic end-of-summer festival of Samhain that we mentioned earlier. In other words, the pagan, Celtic festival of Samhain was Christianized as Halloween. We saw that for the Celts, this day marked the start of winter and beginning of the year, a time of encounter between the living and the dead, which fit well with the Christian tradition of remembering and honoring the dead.

The traditional Christian Halloween is known in Spanish is known as Víspera de Todos los Santos (All Saint’s Day Eve), which did not have any special significance in the Spanish-speaking world, other than being the traditional start of the Todos los Santos celebration. In recent years, however, the influence of the children-centered Halloween celebrations coming from English-speaking countries and, in particular, the United States has started to be felt in many Spanish-speaking countries. Such child-centered partying is also known in Spanish as Halloween, pronounced [xa.lo.ˈɡu̯in], or else as Noche de (las) brujas ‘Night of (the) Witches’. The day itself is also known Día de (las) brujas ‘Day of (the) Witches’.[v] The day and the celebrations have become so popular in some of these countries that the word Halloween [ˌhæ.loʊ̯.ˈin] has been fully assimilated and some have started to write it as jalogüín [xa.lo.ˈɣu̯in] or [ha.lo.ˈɣu̯in], a spelling based on what the word sounds like to Spanish ears.

The focus of traditional All Hallows’ Eve celebrations revolves around the use of humor and ridicule to confront death, which is the source of the present-day children’s activities, which for most people is all that is left of this traditionally Christian celebration.[vi] The modern Halloween celebrations and customs in the English-speaking world were brought to North America by the Irish and the Welsh in the 19th century, which form the basis of the modern child-centered traditions.

A major modern Halloween tradition in North America and the British Isles involves children going door-to-door in costume demanding candy, a practice known as trick-or-treat or to go trick-or-treating, which refers to ‘a children’s custom of calling at houses at Halloween with the threat of pranks if they are not given a small gift’ (COED).[vii] The source of this recent tradition seems to be the practice of souling in late medieval times in Europe, in which poor people would go house-to-house on All Saints Day offering a prayer for the dead in exchange for some food.[viii]

Interestingly, the modern tradition of children going trick-or-treating has spread to many Spanish-speaking countries in recent years.[ix] The Spanish-speaking world has not settled yet on a single phrase equivalent to trick-or-treat in English. Some vying candidates seem to be dulce o truco, truco o trato (or traco o truco), dulce o travesura, treta o trato, or even triqui-triqui or trico-tri, which do not mean anything but which sound like the original English expression. In Mexico, the expression pedir calavera or pedir calaverita are used sometimes, presumably because the container where children keep their candy often has the shape of a skull (Sp. calavera).[x]

Most of these expressions are quite bad renderings of the original English expression, which they attempt to calque. The Spanish word truco can mean ‘trick’, but mostly only the sense of trick that means ‘skill, knack’ or ‘deception, ruse’, not the sense that means ‘prank, joke’, which translates as broma. The Spanish word trato does not mean ‘treat’, but rather ‘deal’ or ‘treatment’. The word treta means ‘trick, ruse’ and is not a bad translation of the sense of trick in trick-or-treat.

Día de los muertos

All Souls Day is known traditional as celebration of Día de los Muertos ‘Day of the dead’ in Mexico, where it is a national holiday which actually lasts two days, the two days that we have been discussing, November 1-2.[xi] In pre-Columbian Mexico, the celebration of the dead was already a big deal for several of the indigenous cultures, including the Mexicas, and it used to be celebrated in the summertime. However, upon the arrival of Christianity, the celebration was moved to coincide with the Catholic festival of Allhallowtide. Similar celebrations involving the dead are found in other parts of Latin America, such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Brazil. The Día de los Muertos celebration until recently was restricted to southern parts of Mexico and it was rejected in other areas as having too many pagan elements, but now it is a public holiday throughout the country.

Figure 169: La Catarina or Lady of the Dead
In Mexican folk culture, the Catarina is one of the most popular 

figures of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico[xii]

In the Spanish Allhallowtide tradition, the first day, November 1st, Día de Todos los Santos, is also known as Día de los Inocentes (‘day of the innocents’) or, in some countries, Día de los Angelitos (‘day of the little angels’) and it is dedicated to deceased infants and children. This Día de los Inocentes celebration should not to be confused with the Día de los Santos Inocentes in Catholic tradition, which in English is called (Holy) Innocents’ Day or Childermas. This day marks the Biblical narrative of infanticide by Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed king of the Jews, an event known in English as the Massacre of the Innocents.[xiii] This day, which in Catholic tradition is celebrated on December 28, is also known in Spanish as Día de las bromas ‘day of the practical jokes’, and is the Hispanic equivalent of April Fool’s Day in English-speaking (and some other European) countries.[xiv] The reason for this seems to be that the word inocente, in addition to ‘innocent’ or ‘not guilty’, can also mean ‘naïve, sucker’ in Spanish. The tradition of playing tricks on people on this day seems to have started from the double meaning of the word inocente in Spanish.

There is little doubt that this three-day long Christian celebration was another appropriation of earlier pagan rites going back millennia during the process of Christianization.[xv] We have already mentioned the fall or end-of-summer (and beginning-of-winter) or harvest festivals that were commonly found in pre-Christian societies, such as Celtic festival of Samhain. The celebration of Thanksgiving, kwown as (Día de) Acción de Gracias in Spanish, which takes place on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States (on the second Monday in October in Canada), has also been interpreted by some as a form of harvest celebration inherited from earlier times when the agricultural cycle was much more ever-present in people’s lives.[xvi]

Jack o’ Lantern

One of the more emblematic things about Halloween is the Jack o’ Lantern or jack-o’-lantern, namely ‘a lantern made from a hollowed pumpkin with a carved face, usually displayed on Halloween’ (AHD). An example of such a lantern can be seen in Figure 167 above. The term comes from an earlier Jack-with-a-lantern, which meant ‘man with a lantern’, since the name Jack, now a familiar form of the name John, was originally the word to refer to an ordinary (male) person. The original meaning of the term jack-o’-lantern, now archaic, is ‘a will-o’-the-wisp’, a meaning first attested in the mid 17th century. The extension of this word for carved pumpkins started in the first half of the 19th century in the United States.

The term will-o'-the-wisp dates back from the 1660s and it goes back to an earlier Will with the wisp, attested around 1600. Here Will is a nickname for William and wisp means ‘handful of (lighted) straw or hay’. This expression was used to refer to ‘a phosphorescent light seen hovering or floating at night on marshy ground, thought to result from the combustion of natural gases’ (COED). A secondary, figurative sense is ‘a person or thing that is difficult or impossible to reach or catch’ (COED) or ‘a delusive or elusive goal’ (MWC). This phrase started as a popular version of the Latin expression ignis fatuus, which had both of the same meanings, and which was a modern Latin phrase from the mid-16th century used in English that literally meant ‘foolish fire’, so called because the fire’s motion was erratic. Another popular English name for this phenomenon is friar’s lantern.

[1] In the Spanish-speaking world, people may receive good wishes from friends and relatives on their saint’s day. In Catalonia, for example, the saint’s day is generally remembered, for example. In Bulgaria, which is a traditionally Christian Orthodox country, the saint’s day is also celebrated. In Spanish one might say to someone ¡Felicidades por tu santo! ‘Happy saint’s day!’, much like one might say ¡Felicidades por tu cumpleaños! ‘Happy birthday!’. In Spanish, the interjection felicidades is an all-purpose way wish happiness or to congratulate for an accomplishment. The related verb is felicitar, which can translate as congratulate when used for congratulating, but not when it’s used to wish happiness.

[2] Sp. onomástica/onomástico was originally an adjective meaning ‘of people’s names’, but it can be used as a noun, as short for fiesta onomástica ‘saint’s day’. English also has the adjective onomastic, though it is much less common. In English it is only an adjective that means ‘of or relating to the study of the history and origin of proper names’ (OAD). These words are loanwords from Ancient Greek νομαστικός (onomastikós) ‘of or concerning naming’, derived from the verb νομ́ζειν (onomázein) ‘to name’ +‎ -τικός (-tikós) a soffix that formed adjectives from verbal and other stems; the verb is derived from the noun νομα (ónoma) ‘name’, cognate with both Eng. name and Sp. nombre.

[3] The cognates Eng. pantheon ~ Sp. panteón come from Lat. panthēum or panthēon, a loanword from Greek Πάνθειον (Pántheion) ‘temple of all gods’, neuter form of the adjective πάνθειος (pántheios) ‘of or common to all gods’, from πν (pân) ‘all, everything’ and θείος (theíos) ‘of or for the gods’, from θεός (theós) ‘god’.

[4] The Romans had two major festivals that celebrated the dead, namely Feralia, celebrated on February 21, and Lemuria, celebrated on May 9, 11, and 13 (the Romans considered even days to be unlucky).
The word Eng. martyr (O.Eng. and Mid.Eng. martir) ~ martir are loanwords from Church Latin martir, a loanword from Ancient Greek μάρτυρ (mártur), a late variant of Gk. μάρτυς (mártus) ‘witness’. In Christian tradition, martyrs were Christians who had been killed because of their beliefs. More generally today, a martyr is ‘a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs’ (COED). The word martyr is also used more facetiously for ‘a person who displays or exaggerates their suffering or discomfort in order to obtain sympathy or admiration’ (COED).

[5] The earliest records of the practice of starting the day at nightfall are found in Babylon, which seems to be where the Jews picked it up during their exile there starting in the 6th century BCE. In the early books of the Hebrew Bible, the word for ‘day’ refers just to the daylight hours and it contrasts with the word for ‘night’. The Greeks and the Phoenicians also reckoned the day from sunset to sunset. The Romans, on the other hand, started the day at midnight, a tradition that we now follow in the West and in the whole world more generally. Other peoples reckoned the full day from sunrise to sunrise.

[6] The word difunto/a (originally, defunto/a) means ‘deceased’. It is a cognate of Eng. defunct ‘no longer existing or functioning’ (Sp. en desuso, caduco/a; desaparecido/a, extinto/a; difunto/a). Both words come from Lat. dēfunctus, passive participle of the verb dēfungī ‘to perform, finish, carry out’, used in the expression dēfungor vītā ‘to die’ (lit. ‘to be done with life’). The derived noun defunción means ‘death, decease’. The word ánima is a learned version of Sp. alma ‘soul’, from Lat. ănĭma ‘soul’ (originally, ‘air, breeze, wind; the breath of life; life’)
[7] The cognates Eng. purgatory ~ Sp. purgatorio are learned loanwords from Lat. purgātōrium ‘(place of) cleansing’, a Post-Classical Latin noun derived from the neuter form of the adjective purgātōrius ‘cleansing, purgative’, derived from from the verb pūrgāre ‘to cleanse, purify’, literally ‘to make pure’ since it is derived from pūrus/pūra ‘clean, pure’ (source of Eng. pure ~ Sp. puro/a) and‎ agēre ‘to make’. The Latin verb pūrgāre has also given us the cognate verbs Eng. purge ~ Sp. purgar.

[8] The word triduum is a loanword from Latin meaning ‘a period of prayer or religious celebration lasting three days’ (Ch). Lat. trīdŭum meant simply ‘the space of three days, three days’ (L&S), as it is formed from the words tres ‘three’ and dies ‘day’. Another major triduum in Christianity involves Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, which culminates on the celebration of Easter.
[9] The English adjectival suffix ‑y descends from Old English ‑ig, which descends from Proto-Germanic *-igaz, which is a cognate of the Latin suffix ‑ic‑(us/a) and the Ancient Greek suffix ‑ικ(-ik‑).

[10] The masculine form santo is shortened to san (apocope) before a name except before the names Domingo, Tomás, Tomé and Toribio, all of which start with To- or Do-.

[11] The noun vespĕra also came to mean ‘the West’ (where the sun sets). This noun was derived from the noun vesper vespĕris ‘the evening, even, eve, even-tide’, and derived from it ‘the evening-star’, ‘the West, Occident’ (L&S). This word descends from Proto-Indo-European *wek(ʷ)speros and is cognate with Ancient Greek σπερος (hésperos), Old Church Slavonic вєчєръ (večerŭ), and Germanic *westraz. From the latter comes Eng. west and western. The Spanish equivalent oeste ‘west’ is a loanword from a Germanic language (this word has also been spelled güeste, huest, vuest, vest, and oest). From Gk. σπερος (hésperos), come the cognate loanwords Eng. Hesperus [ˈhɛs.pə.ɹəs] ~ Sp. Héspero, the name of the ‘evening star’, i.e. the planet Venus.

[12] Note that the adverb tarde cannot be used with the verbs ser or estar, because unlike Eng. late, it cannot be used as an adjective. Thus, there is no simple way to translate Eng. to be late. To express that meaning, different verbs must be used with the adverb tarde, as in llegar tarde ‘to arrive late’ or empezar tarde ‘to start late’. Additionally, other verbs can be used to express this meaning such as atrasarse, retrasarse, demorarse, llevar retraso, ir retrasado, ir con retraso, andar retrasado, or andar con retraso.
The adverb tarde comes from the Latin adverb tardē that meant ‘slowly’ and ‘late’. It was derived from the adjective tardus, that meant ‘slow, sluggish’, ‘tardy, late’, as well as ‘dull, stupid, slow-witted’. Also derived from this adjective was the verb tardāre which meant ‘to make slow, to hinder, delay, etc.’. This verb is the source of Sp. tardar ‘to take a long time’. In English, the adjectives tardy (Sp. tardío/a) and retarded (Sp. retrasado/a) contain this Latin root as well.

[13] In some Spanish-speaking countries, such as Spain, the tarde is not considered to start until after lunch, which can start quite late, such as 2:00-3:00pm. Thus, the tarde does not start until around 4:00pm or 5:00pm in such countries. Thus, in Spain, one cannot typically translate afternoon as tarde. If one means afternoon literally as after noon, one should probably say después del mediodía, lit. ‘after noon’.

[14] Actually, the meaning of words having to do with times of the day can also depend on customary daily routines in a culture. For instance, the word mediodía, which supposedly means ‘noon’ (literally ‘half day’), does not correspond to the English word noon in Spain, where most people understand mediodía as ‘lunch-time’, which can be as late as 2-3pm. Thus, in Spain, la tarde doesn’t start until after lunch, which can be as late as 4:00pm or even later, especially in the summer.

[15] From the same Greek word ἕσπερος ‎(hésperos) come other interesting, albeit rare words. Ancient Greek Ἑσπερία ‎(Hespería), which was borrowed into Latin as Hesperia, meant ‘the land where the sun sets’, which for the Greeks was the Italian Peninsula and for the Romans, the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania). Spanish has the fancy word Hesperia for lands to the west of Greece, from which it has developed the adjective hespérico. English has developed the poetic word (noun or adjective) Hesperian (from Hesperius + ‑an) , which means ‘a native or an inhabitant of a western country’ (or, alternatively, ‘relating to the Hesperides nymphs’). Hesperia is also the name of a city in southeastern California, north of San Bernardino.

[i] A Jack o’ Lantern made for the Holywell Manor Halloween celebrations in 2003. By Toby Ord - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,
[iv] Source: Jakub Schikaneder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, (2018.10.27)
[vi] Portaro, Sam (25 January 1998). A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Cowley Publications. p. 199: “All Saints’ Day is the centerpiece of an autumn triduum. In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows’ Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule to confront the power of death. The following day, in the commemoration of All Saints, we gave witness to the victory of incarnate goodness embodied in remarkable deeds and doers triumphing over the misanthropy of darkness and devils. And in the commemoration of All Souls we proclaimed the hope of common mortality expressed in our aspirations and expectations of a shared eternity.” Quoted in
[xiv] This day commemorates the killing of innocent children by King Herod described in the two of the books of the New Testament, cf.,

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