Word for Wednesday: Pumpkin

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Our Word for Wednesday theme for October is Halloween.

The word Halloween likely dates to the seventeenth century but was popularised in the Burns poem ‘Halloween’ which was written in 1785. It is a Scottish abbreviation of ‘Allhallow-even’ which means ‘Eve of the All Saints’.  ‘Hallow’ means ‘holy person’ or ‘saint’. 

Our first Halloween-themed word of the month is pumpkin.

A pumpkin is a round orange Autumn squash that has become associated with Halloween due to the time of year it matures. Pumpkins are used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Since 2003, when Starbucks first introduced the drink, the pumpkin spice latte has also become synonymous with this time of year for many people. 

Carving pumpkins into jack-o’lanterns with scary faces is a popular part of Halloween festivities. In folklore, jack-o’-lanterns or will-o’-wisps were ghostly lights seen by travellers over bogs or marshes. When people started carving vegetables into lanterns – supposedly to ward off evil spirits – they used the same names.  Turnips, mangelwurzel, and swede were originally used in Ireland and Britain for these lanterns, but settlers in North America used the native pumpkin instead.

The word pumpkin is a seventeenth-century alteration of ‘pumpion’ which comes from the French ‘pompom’, from the Latin ‘peponem’ meaning ‘melon’. ‘Peponem’ comes from the Greek ‘pepon’.

06 Oct 2021
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