also Hallow-e'en, Hallow e'en, 1781, in a Scottish context, the word and the magical lore about the date were popularized by Burns' poem (1785, and he attached a footnote explaining it), but it probably dates to 17c. in Scotland and is attested as the name of a tune in 1724. The tune is mentioned again in an English-Scots songbook ("The Chearful Companion") in 1783, and Burns was not the first to describe the customs in print.
Hallow-E'en, or Holy Eve, is the evening previous to the celebration of All Saints. That it is propitious to the rites of divination, is an opinion still common in many parts of Scotland. [John Main, footnote to his poem "Hallow-E'en," Glasgow, 1783]
It is a Scottish shortening of Allhallow-even "Eve of All Saints, last night of October" (1550s), the last night of the year in the old Celtic calendar, where it was Old Year's Night, a night for witches. A pagan holiday given a cursory baptism. Otherwise obsolete hallow (n.) "holy person, saint," is from the source of hallow (v.). Also see even (n.), and compare hallows. Hallow-day for "All-Saints Day" is from 1590s; earlier was halwemesse day (late 13c.).
This word was chosen in Old English bibles to translate Latin benedicere and Greek eulogein, both of which have a ground sense of "to speak well of, to praise," but were used in Scripture to translate Hebrew brk "to bend (the knee), worship, praise, invoke blessings." L.R. Palmer ("The Latin Language") writes, "There is nothing surprising in the semantic development of a word denoting originally a special ritual act into the more generalized meanings to 'sacrifice,' 'worship,' 'bless,' " and he compares Latin immolare (see immolate).
The meaning shifted in late Old English toward "pronounce or make happy, prosperous, or fortunate" by resemblance to unrelated bliss. Meaning "invoke or pronounce God's blessing upon" is from early 14c. No cognates in other languages. Related: Blessed; blessing.