About The Word Jack-o’-Lantern

photoThe original meaning of Jack-o’-Lantern was night watchman.  "Jack" was a term for any guy or fellow.  A night watchman was a guy who would walk around carrying a lantern making sure all was safe.  He was a Jack with a lantern.  They were also called "Jack-a-lantern" and "Jack-with-the-Lantern".

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has the earliest written use of Jack-o’-Lantern in 1663:

"I am an Evening dark as Night, Jack-with-the-Lantern, bring a Light."

The current meaning of Jack-o-Lantern is: "A lantern made of the rind of a large turnip or a pumpkin, in which holes are cut to represent eyes, nose, and mouth; a turnip- or (in U.S.) pumpkin-lantern." (North England, Scotland, and U.S.) -From the OED

The earliest written usage of Jack-o-Lantern in its pumpkin/turnip form is from 1837 in Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales:

"Hide it (the red gemstone) under thy cloak, say’st thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o’lantern!"

Most places nowadays no longer have guys who go around with lanterns watching over a community.  So we consider a Jack-o’-Lantern to be a pumpkin with a face cut out and a candle put inside it to light it up.  In the US, we make them for Halloween.


This article was posted on Monday, November 1st, 2010 at 6:11 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, England, English, Halloween, Holidays Around the World, Jack-o'-Lantern, Languages, Scotland, United Kingdom, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “About The Word Jack-o’-Lantern”

  1. Maryam Says:

    this was nice!

Leave a Reply