Bel·​tane ˈbel-ˌtān How to pronounce Beltane (audio)
: the Celtic May Day festival

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Beltane Has Scottish Gaelic Roots

To the ancient Celts, May Day marked the start of summer, and a critical time when the boundaries between the human and supernatural worlds were removed, requiring that people take special measures to protect themselves against enchantments. The Beltane fire festival originated in a summer ritual in which cattle were herded between two huge bonfires to protect them from evil and disease. The word Beltane has been used in English since the 15th century, but the earliest known instance of the word in print—as well as the description of that summer ritual—is from 500 years previous: it appears in an Irish glossary commonly attributed to Cormac, a king and bishop who lived in the south of Ireland, near the end of the first millennium.

Examples of Beltane in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Her mind immediately went to Beltane, a festival during which both Yen and Ciri were born. Nick Romano,, 12 May 2023 Claire first traveled back in time just after the festival of Beltane (the Gaelic May Day festival which falls between the spring equinox and the summer solstice). Emma Dibdin, Town & Country, 23 June 2023 One of the most important celebrations in Celtic culture was Beltane, a festival which marked the end of the dark months (fall and winter) and beginning of the light months (spring and summer). Kate Franke, Woman's Day, 25 Apr. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'Beltane.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English (Scots), May 1 or 2, from Scottish Gaelic bealltain

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Beltane was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near Beltane

Cite this Entry

“Beltane.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

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