Free Irish language Lesson for Hallowe’en

Halloween - Samhain Bitey
We've let Bitey out of the cage for Halloween. I'll try to make sure he doesn't bite. Now scroll down for your free Irish language lesson for Halloween.

Warning, it’s not for the faint of heart!

Lesson 112 vocabulary


The Irish language phrase for Halloween is Oíche Shamhna. It literally means the Eve of Samhain.

Oíche Shamhna Ee-ha How-na Halloween

Samhain Sow-in November

Ireland's Celtic festivals

Samhain marks one of the two main points in the Celtic year – November 1st. The other one is Lá Bealtaine on May 1st. These two days break up the year into two seasons: the light and the dark.

Lá Bealtaine Law Byall-tin-eh

The light part starts in early summer on Lá Bealtaine, and the dark part starts in early winter on Samhain, which literally means "the end of summer".

What's so special about Halloween?

In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D.,  the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids.

Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the cattle and the sheep were brought from the pastures back to the stables, when the harvest was stored and the fattest animals slaughtered to feed the people through the winter months.

It was believed that at Samhain the gods drew nearer to the Earth, so many sacrifices and gifts were offered in thanksgiving for the harvest. Fires were lit and people threw in objects symbolizing their wishes and prayers.

Samhain was changed to Hallowmas -- a feast to honor the dead -- with the rise of Christianity.

Old Halloween customs in Ireland

The custom of trick-or-treating may have originated from an old Irish custom of going door-to-door to collect bread, cheese, nuts and apples in preparation for the feasting at Samhain.

Tabhair féirín dom nó buailfidh mé bob ort! Tow-ir fayr-een dum, no bool-hig may bub ort! Trick or treat!
(Literally this sentence means: Give me a treat, or I will play a trick on you!)

Ghosts and spirits

Samhain is a time of fairies, ghosts, demons, and witches. In Celtic mythology winter was the season of ghosts, and Samhain is the night when they are released from the underworld. Many people lit bonfires to keep the evil spirits at bay.

spiorad spyur-ud spirit

taibhse tive-sheh ghost

cailleach col-yokh witch

damhán alla dow-awn olla spider

sciathán leathair shki-hawn lah-hir bat (literally, "leather wing")

Light the bonfire

Light a bonfire, they keep the evil spirits away!

tine chnámh tih-neh ch-nauv bonfire

tinte ealaíne tin-teh al-een-eh fireworks (literally, "art fires")

leac uaighe lyac oo-ig-eh tombstone

fuil fwill blood

adhaigh fhidil ayhg id-il mask

creatlach crat-lokh skeleton

cnámh cnawv bone

Fruits of the season

Apples played a big role in divinations on Samhain. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be - the longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be.

úlla oo-la apples

puimcín pum-keen pumpkin

pióg pyoh-gue pie

oráistí ur-awsh-chee oranges

milseáin mil-shoyne candy, sweets

Samhain was also known as Nutcrack Night, because it was a popular custom at Samhain to throw nuts on the fire.

If a nut burned brightly it meant that the thrower would be alive in twelve months time. If it flared up brightly it meant marriage within twelve months.

To see if a relationship will last, you have to place two hazelnuts side by side and burn them over a fire. If they stay together as they burn, the couple will last. If the nuts burst apart the relationship will break up.

cnónna cnoh-na nuts

gallchnónna gol-khnoh-na walnuts

pis talún pish tol-oon peanut

Conversation practice for Halloween

This conversation builds on previous conversation phrases in this program.

Micheál and Pádraig have been friends when they were children. They met for lunch after not seeing eachother for a couple of years. As they are saying goodbye they are planning a night out for Halloween.

Mícheál Mee-hyahl

Pádraig Pahd-rig


An mbeidh tú ag dul amach i gcóir Oíche Shamhna? On meg too egg duhl a-mokh ih goir Ee-ha How-na? Will you be going Halloween night?


Beidh mé. Ach ar dtús, beidh mé ar thóir milseán le mo pháistí. Beg may. Ok er doos, beg may err hore mill-shawn leh muh fawsh-tee. I will be. But first, I will be hunting for candy with my children.


Cén aois dóibh? Cane eesh doh-iv? How old are they?


Tá Seán trí bliana d'aois, agus tá Úna cúig bliana d'aois. Taw Shawn tree blee-on-a deesh, og-us taw Oo-na koo-ig blee-on-a deesh. Seán is three years old, and Úna is five years old.


Ná ith an iomarca milseán! Naw ih un um-er-ka mill-shawn! Don't eat too many candies!


Triailfidh mé gan. An bhfeicfidh mé thú ag a hocht a' chlog? Tree-il-hig may gon. Un vek-hig may hoo eg a hucht a klug? I'll try not to. Will I see you at eight o' clock?


Cinnte, feicfidh mé thú. Slán. Kin-che, fek-hig may hoo. Slawn. Sure, see you. Bye.


Slán leat. Slawn lyat. Goodbye.

Bonus Hallowe'en recording

Ná scanraigh mé. Naw skon-rig may. Don't scare me.

Hope you don’t scare too easily ;)


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