Man with pumpkin head costume on Halloween

31 Spooky Halloween Vocabulary Words

Be careful if you go somewhere on the evening of October 31.

You just might see a ghost!

But don’t be scared: it’s just a person dressed up as a ghost.

That’s because October 31st is Halloween, a fun cultural holiday that people celebrate most in the USA, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

But the holiday is growing in popularity around the world, so you may already know about Halloween. It’s also depicted on many TV shows from the USA

This scary post will look at 31 essential spooky words and haunted Halloween vocabulary to talk about Halloween like a native in English.


Trick-or-treaters in front of a decorated house on Halloween  Halloween Vocabulary

1. Halloween

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Halloween
Example sentence: “I’m dressing as a ghost for Halloween this year.”

Halloween is a very old holiday, and it has a surprisingly complicated history. If you have time, check out the Halloween videos on the History Channel’s website for more information. But for now, here’s a quick summary:

Originally, Halloween was a pagan (non-Christian) celebration called Samhain, which involved lighting fires to scare off ghosts and spirits.

The actual word is comprised of two concepts. The first part of the word, “hallow,” means “holy.” The “een” part is an old way of spelling “evening.” So in other words, “Halloween” is the evening before a holy day. That holy day is the Christian All Saints’ Day, which is held each year on November 1st.

In the past, many people used to wear costumes of scary creatures on Halloween to scare away evil spirits. That custom evolved into modern traditions, such as dressing up like different creatures.

Modern day Halloween celebrations don’t really have a spiritual component anymore, though. These days, Halloween is mostly for kids. It’s not a serious or religious holiday anymore—it’s just a fun reason to wear a costume, have a party, eat candy and play some games.

2. Trick-or-treating

Part of speech: Verb
Pronunciation: Trick-or-treating
Example sentence: “I’m excited to go trick-or-treating tonight!”

This is one of the most common Halloween traditions. Kids dress up in costumes and kids go to different houses in the neighborhood, offering the phrase “trick or treat” to whomever answers the door.

Originally, this was a threat. If the person didn’t give the children a piece of candy or fruit, the ghosts and goblins at the door might perform a trick, or a prank, such as smashing the jack-o’-lantern or “decorating” the owner’s house with toilet paper.

Check out the short TV special “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” It’s a classic Peanuts cartoon (with Snoopy) that involves trick-or-treating and other Halloween customs.

3. Costume

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Costume
Example sentence: “I can’t decide what costume I’m going to wear for Halloween this year.”

A costume is similar to a disguise, which is something that makes you look like a different person. A costume often has a main part that covers your body, and some also include a mask, which covers your face.

Remember that you can use the verb “to wear” with a costume, since it’s clothing that you put on your body. It’s also common to use the phrases “dress up as ” or “go as” when talking about Halloween costumes. 

Also, a fun cultural note: It’s a joke that every costume can be made into a “sexy costume,” such as a sexy nurse or a sexy police officer. But in recent years the trend has become even more ridiculous, with costumes like a sexy pizza rat, the “sexy” version of a rat that found fame by carrying a piece of pizza down the stairs of the New York Subway.

4. Decorations

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Decorations
Example sentence: “Let’s put up our Halloween decorations tomorrow.”

Decorations are any objects put on display that add to the feeling of a holiday. For example, a common decoration for Christmas is a Christmas tree. 

For Halloween, common decorations are fake spiderwebs, skeletons, jack-o’-lanterns, tombstones or anything else that adds to the spookiness of this haunted night.

Skeleton decorations on Halloween

Scary Words

5. Scary

Part of speech: Adjective
Pronunciation: Scary
Example sentence: “That horror movie is so scary!”

If something is scary, it makes you experience fear. In other words, it causes you to feel afraid.

If you experience fear, you can say that you are scared. So “scary” and “scared” are very similar, but one causes fear and the other experiences fear.

A lot of people are scared of certain animals (like snakes or spiders), certain places (like elevators), or certain experiences (like flying or public speaking).

6. Afraid

Part of speech: Adjective
Pronunciation: Afraid
Example sentence: “Are you afraid of ghosts? I am!”

A really common synonym for scared is “afraid” A good trick is to remember that it’s often used with “of.”

7. Frightened

Part of speech: Adjective
Pronunciation: Frightened
Example sentence: “My brother gets frightened easily.”

The word “frightened” is another synonym for “scared,” but it’s a bit more advanced and a little more formal.

When you experience fear, you feel frightened. Often, people are frightened because they are surprised, but not necessarily scared, which is a bit more extreme.

8. Spooky

Part of speech: Adjective
Pronunciation: Spooky
Example sentence: “I don’t like walking through the cemetery after dark. I know nothing will happen, but it just feels too quiet and spooky.”

This is a common word to hear around Halloween. It’s similar to “scary,” but less intense. If something is spooky, it might make you feel a little bit scared or uncomfortable, but it can also be a fun feeling—a bit thrilling.

It’s often related to the atmosphere or the general feeling of a place like a haunted house or a cemetery.

9. Creepy

Part of speech: Adjective
Pronunciation: Creepy
Example sentence: “That man in the green shirt is staring at that woman. He seems pretty creepy.”

This word is also very similar to “spooky” and “scary,” but something creepy will make you feel uncomfortable, but not necessarily scared.

The verbs “to creep,” “to creep up” or “to creep around” mean to move in a secret, sneaky way that makes it hard be noticed. So people who creep around might be doing things that are dishonest or illegal.

The noun form of this word, “creep,” is a person who does weird things that make others feel uncomfortable.

10. Freaky

Part of speech: Adjective
Pronunciation: Freaky
Example sentence: “After I got into the car accident, I freaked out, even though I wasn’t injured. I had to sit down for a half hour before I was calm again. It’s still a bit freaky for me to drive on the road where I had the accident.”

Again, this is similar to the others, but “freaky” is used to describe something that’s strange or not normal. It can also be used to describe a scary or intense situation or person.

A person who is freaky or who does freaky things can be called a “freak.” It’s more commonly used to describe someone who is really intensely interested in something. For example, I could be called a “Star Wars freak” because I really like the “Star Wars” movies.

You also might hear the verb “to freak out.” That means to either be really scared, to lose your patience or even to almost go crazy in its most extreme form. 

11. Eerie

Part of speech: Adjective
Pronunciation: Eerie
Example sentence: “I was just about to call my cousin, who I hadn’t talked to in a year. But right when I picked up the phone to call him, my phone rang—it was my cousin! That was pretty eerie.”

This word is less common in modern English, but it’s similar to “spooky.” “Eerie” is often used to describe something that is bizarre, uncommon or strange. People also describe supernatural things as being eerie. Think of it as being a step below “spooky” and a few steps below “scary.”

12. Silly

Part of speech: Adjective
Pronunciation: Silly
Example sentence: “Many people say that clowns are supposed to be fun and silly, but I think they’re just creepy or even scary.

Halloween isn’t all about the scary things. It’s also about the silly. How else would you describe someone who’s dressed up as a giant taco?

If something is silly, it’s fun or funny. In other words, it isn’t serious, and may even make you laugh.

Three jack-o-lantern pumpkins on Halloween

Symbols of Halloween

13. Jack-o’-lantern

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Jack-o’-lantern
Example sentence: “It’s almost Halloween. We need to carve the jack-o’-lantern!”

It has a strange name and an interesting history. Basically, it’s a pumpkin that has a face carved into it. Then, you put a candle inside the pumpkin and light it up, turning it into a lantern.

People use jack-o’-lanterns as Halloween decorations, and sometimes people get together to have a small party to carve them.

14. Haunted house

Part of speech: Noun (“Haunted” is an adjective)
Pronunciation: Haunted house
Example sentence: “I’m too scared to go through the haunted house.”

If something is haunted, it means that it has ghosts or spirits living in it. Some people believe that their houses are haunted if strange things happen, which they can’t explain.

A haunted house at Halloween is a bit different, though. For this, a house is decorated to make it scary and spooky, and then invite visitors to walk through the house. While the visitors walk through, people in scary costumes jump out to try to scare the visitors. Often, you must pay to visit a haunted house, so it’s like a seasonal business.

15. Scarecrow

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Scarecrow
Example sentence: “The scarecrow in that cornfield looks eerie!”

A scarecrow is used by farmers to scare crows (a type of bird) away from their fields, because the birds eat the grains in the field.

To make a scarecrow, you take old clothes and fill them with straw or hay (dried grass). Then you put the stuffed clothes on a tall stick so it will stand upright. The reason birds are afraid of scarecrows is that they look like people.

The scarecrow is related to Halloween because it’s a harvest festival, set during the time of year when farmers harvest their crops and prepare for winter.

To see a famous scarecrow, check out the Scarecrow character in the recent Batman movies.

16. Black cat

Part of speech: Noun (“Black” is an adjective)
Pronunciation: Black cat
Example sentence: “If a black cat crosses your path, turn the other way.”

Black cats are related to many superstitions and are thought to bring bad luck. A black cat with an arched back is often used a Halloween decoration because of this.

In the past, people thought that witches could transform themselves into cats. So black cats are still a common symbol of Halloween these days.

17. Spider

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Spider
Example sentence: “I’m afraid of spiders—especially big ones.”

Many people are scared of spiders. Because they’re a common fear, they’re perfect for Halloween decorations. People often use fake spiderwebs in their gardens, which can create a creepy effect.

18. Candy

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Candy
Example sentence: “We’ll have loads of candy after we go trick-or-treating.”

This is not scary at all (unless you’re a dentist, maybe!), but candy is really common around Halloween.

When kids go trick-or-treating, they receive a lot of candy from all the houses they visit. Also, if you have a Halloween party, it’s common to eat sweets like candy corn or caramel apples.

19. Graveyard

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Graveyard
Example sentence: “That old graveyard always creeps me out.”

A graveyard is another name for a cemetery. A “grave” (also called a tomb) is a place where a dead body is buried. 

It’s a common symbol for Halloween because Halloween was traditionally associated with ghosts and spirits of dead people.

20. Tombstone

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Tombstone
Example sentence: “I love looking at old tombstones and imagining the lives of the people.”

A tombstone is a stone that marks where a tomb or grave is located. Usually it includes the name of the person who is buried, the dates that he or she lived, and some kind of message or other inscription.

You’ll often see the letters “R.I.P.” on a tombstone, which stand for “rest in peace.”

Scary Creatures

21. Monster

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Monster
Example sentence:Monsters tend to lurk in dark places, so avoid them.”

A monster is a general word to describe any creature or person that is scary. The most well-known monster is probably Frankenstein’s monster from the classic book “Frankenstein,” in which Dr. Frankenstein constructs a monster from different dead body parts!

There have been many movies that involve the Frankenstein’s monster character, and it’s also the title of a really long 1970s psychedelic rock song!

22. Ghost / Spirit

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Ghost / Spirit
Example sentence: “I’m afraid of ghosts and spirits, aren’t you?”

These two words are basically synonyms, at least when talking about Halloween. Some people believe that when you die, your ghost or spirit stays on earth. Ghosts and spirits might watch over people or they might haunt them in places like haunted houses.

Being a ghost can also be a really cheap Halloween costume, since all you need is a large white bed sheet with two eye holes cut out so you can see where you’re going.

23. Witch

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Witch
Example sentence: “Is it true that witches fly around on broomsticks?”

A witch is a woman with magical powers. The standard witch often wears a tall black hat, has green skin or warts and rides a broom around. There are different types of witches, though, including Minerva McGonagall from the “Harry Potter” books.

Witches are thought to be connected to the underworld, and they can make magical potions and brews. They can also cast spells, which can harm or help those receiving them.

24. Wizard

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Wizard
Example sentence: “Don’t anger the wizard. He can cast a spell on you.”

A wizard is the male version of a witch. In other words, it’s a man with magical powers.

The most famous wizards include Merlin the Magician and Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings,” and of course Harry Potter.

25. Zombie

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Zombie
Example sentence: “My favorite movies are about zombies.”

You’ve probably heard this word, since it’s very similar in many languages. A zombie is basically a dead person that has somehow stayed “alive.”

Sometimes they’re really fast or really slow, but most of time zombies like to eat humans, or at least their brains, so it’s best to avoid them at all costs.

Zombies make great Halloween costumes.

26. Mummy

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Mummy
Example sentence:Mummies are old and scary, and best left in their crypts.”

In tombs in places like Egypt, people made their kings into mummies by wrapping their dead bodies in cloth before burying them in a tomb. You can even see mummies from some Egyptian kings like Ramses II in museums today.

A Halloween mummy is based on the same idea, but it looks more like the mummy from the classic science fiction movie from 1932.

The main difference with a Halloween mummy is that it comes alive and walks—which obviously couldn’t happen with real mummies!

27. Vampire

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Vampire
Example sentence: “I’ve read that some vampires are several thousand years old.”

A vampire is a former human that drinks blood and is immortal. Many cultures have legends about vampires, and there are a ridiculous number of movies, TV shows and books about them.

The most popular vampire story is about Count Dracula from Transylvania in Romania. The old tales say that vampires like to drink blood from their victims’ necks. If you get bitten by a vampire, you’ll also become a vampire!

According to some legends, vampires can transform themselves into bats—the only flying mammal—so they’re another common symbol of Halloween.

28. Skeleton

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Skeleton
Example sentence:Skeletons are popular in Mexican Day of the Dead festivals.”

A skeleton is a collection of all the bones in a body.

They’re associated with Halloween because they’re the remains of a dead people, and Halloween is about communing with the dead. It’s also because many people think skeletons and bones are creepy or scary.

29. Werewolf

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Werewolf
Example sentence: “If you hear howling late at night, it could be a werewolf.”

A werewolf is also sometimes called a “wolf-man.” It’s a person who is a human most of the time, but when there’s a full moon, he or she transforms into a wolf.

A werewolf acts normal as a human, but can be very violent when they transform into a wolf. If you get bitten by a werewolf, legends say that you will also become a werewolf!

This is another great costume choice for Halloween.

30. The Grim Reaper

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: The Grim Reaper
Example sentence: “If the Grim Reaper comes calling, run!”

Death is a very famous “person” that you’ve probably seen in some different movies and cartoons.

The word “death” is the noun form of the adjective “dead” and the verb “to die.” In most Halloween “Death” costumes, people wear a long, black robe with a hood and carry a sickle or scythe, which is a sharp tool that farmers use to cut grain in the field.

Death’s name is usually “the Grim Reaper.” The word “grim” means dark or depressing. “Reaper” is related to the verb “to reap,” which means to harvest crops like grain. But the Grim Reaper doesn’t harvest crops, he collects dead people!

If you can get a black robe and a scythe, this can be an easy costume to put together.

31. Devil / Demon

Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Devil / Demon
Example sentence:Devils and demons are really scary costume choices.”

You’ve probably heard of the devil because there are references to him in countless songs, books and movies.

Demons are closely related. They’re basically the opposite of angels—evil creatures that live in hell or in the afterlife, torturing people’s spirits after they die.

You may also hear people refer to the Devil (with a capital “D”). In that case, it has a religious meaning, referring to the lead demon who’s in charge of Hell. Other names for the Devil are Satan, Lucifer and Mephistopheles.

There is often controversy about Halloween because it has non-Christian roots. But today, most people celebrate Halloween just to have fun and to go to costume parties. 

Check out this video for some spooky costume ideas:

You now have a lot more Halloween vocabulary and scary words to help you increase your English vocabulary and to talk about and understand Halloween.

If you want to learn even more Halloween vocabulary in context, consider trying out FluentU.

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Whether you get dressed up and go trick-or-treating, or if you just stay at home and watch scary movies to celebrate, I hope you have a happy Halloween!

And One More Thing...

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