ACE FOLKLIFE – GUIDE – ETYMOLOGY
WORDS OF THE SUPERNATURAL & PARANORMAL
One does not have to believe in the world of words but it helps to know the meaning of the world’s words while one is visiting – “When in Rome!”
(Read the future of our worlds words based on our history in etymology – It’s a fun past time)
Alien (adj.) ?mid-14c., “strange, foreign,” from O.Fr. alien “alien, strange, foreign; an alien, stranger, foreigner,” from L. alienus “of or belonging to another, foreign, alien, strange,” also, as a noun, “a stranger, foreigner,” adj. form of alius “(an)other” (see alias). Meaning “of another planet” first recorded 1944 in science fiction writing; the noun in this sense is from 1953. The noun sense of “foreigner” is first attested early 14c. An alien priory (c.1500) is one owing obedience to a mother abbey in a foreign country.Spock ?half-alien character in the “Star Trek” U.S. entertainment franchise, developed and named 1964 by series creator Gene Roddenberry, who later said he was simply searching for an alien-sounding word and not thinking of popular baby doctor and author Benjamin Spock, whose name is of Dutch origin.extraterrestrial?1868 (adj.), 1963 (n.), from extra- + terrestrial.borg ?fictional hostile alien hive-race in the “Star Trek” series, noted for “assimilating” defeated rivals, first introduced in “The Next Generation” TV series (debut fall 1987).
Their catchphrase is “resistance is futile.”pulsar ?1968, from pulse, the form on analogy of quasar. When discovered in 1967, they were thought perhaps to be signals from alien civilizations and astronomers informally dubbed them LGM for “Little Green Men.”hag-ridden ?1680s, “afflicted by nightmares,” from hag (n.) + ridden. An old term for sleep paralysis, the sensation of being held immobile in bed, often by a heavy weight, and accompanied by a sense of alien presence. A holed stone hung over the bed was said to prevent it.Hag-ride as a verb is attested from 1660s.alienable ?1610s; see alien + -able.
Coven ?”a gathering of witches,” 1660s, earlier (c.1500) a variant of covent, cuvent early forms of convent. Association with witches arose in Scotland, but not popularized until Sir Walter Scott used it in this sense in “Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft” (1830).
Ther vold meit bot sometymes a Coven …. Ther is threttein persones in ilk Coeven. [Crim. Trials Scot. III 606, 1662]
Sabbat ?”witches’ sabbath,” 1650s, from French form of sabbath (q.v.); a special application of that word.Hecate ?early 15c.
Greek deity, daughter of Perseus and Asteria (said to be originally Thracian), later identified as an aspect of Artemis, fem. of hekatos “far-shooting.” Associated since Shakespeare (“I Henry VI,” III.ii.64) with witches and sorcery.Lapland ?1570s, from Lapp, the Swedish name for this Finnic people (their name for themselves was Sabme), which probably originally was an insulting coinage (cf. M.H.G. lappe “simpleton”); but in English traditionally the home of witches and wizards who had power to conjure winds and tempests.Walpurgis night ?1822, from Ger. Walpurgisnacht, witches’ revel, especially on Brocken, on May-day eve, lit. “the night of (St.) Walpurgis,” from Walburga, Eng. abbess who migrated to Heidenheim, Germany, and died there c.780; May 1 being the day of the removal of her bones from Heidenheim to Eichstädt.Halloween ?c.1745, 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 and sent on its way. See hallow; also cf. hallows.
lycanthropy ?1580s, from Gk. lykanthropia, from lykos “wolf” + anthropos “man” (see anthropo-). Originally a form of madness (described by ancient writers) in which the afflicted thought he was a wolf; applied to actual transformations of persons (especially witches) into wolves since 1830 (see werewolf).triangle ?late 14c., from O.Fr. triangle (13c.), from L. triangulum “triangle,” from neut. of adj. triangulus “three-cornered,” from tri- “three” (see tri-) + angulus “corner, angle” (see angle (n.)).
In the huts of witches all the instruments and implements are triangular.
[“Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens”]
swim (v.) ?O.E. swimman “to move in or on the water, float” (class III strong verb; past tense swamm, pp. swummen), from P.Gmc.*swemjanan (cf. O.S., O.H.G. swimman, O.N. svimma, Du. zwemmen, Ger. schwimmen), from PIE base *swem- “to be in motion,” sometimes said to be restricted to Germanic, but possible cognates are Welsh chwyf “motion,” O.Ir. do-sennaim “I hunt,” Lith. sundyti “to chase.” For the usual IE word, see natatorium. Sense of “reel or move unsteadily” first recorded 1670s; of the head or brain, from 1702.
Figurative phrase sink or swim is attested from mid-15c., often with reference to ordeals of suspected witches.fascinate ?1590s, “bewitch, enchant,” from M.Fr. fasciner (14c.), from L. fascinatus, pp. of fascinare “bewitch, enchant, fascinate,” fromfascinus “spell, witchcraft,” of uncertain origin. Possibly from Gk. baskanos “bewitcher, sorcerer,” with form influenced by L. fari”speak” (see fame).
The Greek word may be from a Thracian equivalent of Gk. phaskein “to say;” cf. also enchant, and Ger.besprechen “to charm,” from sprechen “to speak.” Earliest used of witches and of serpents, who were said to be able to cast a spell by a look that rendered one unable to move or resist. Sense of “delight, attract” is first recorded 1815. Related: Fascinated;fascinating.witch ?O.E. wicce “female magician, sorceress,” in later use especially “a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts,” fem. of O.E. wicca “sorcerer, wizard, man who practices witchcraft or magic,” from verb wiccian “to practice witchcraft” (cf. Low Ger. wikken, wicken “to use witchcraft,” wikker, wicker”soothsayer”).
OED says of uncertain origin; Liberman says
“None of the proposed etymologies of witch is free from phonetic or semantic difficulties.” Klein suggests connection with O.E. wigle “divination,” and wig, wih “idol.” Watkins says the nouns represent a P.Gmc. *wikkjaz “necromancer” (one who wakes the dead), from PIE *weg-yo-, from *weg- “to be strong, be lively.” Thatwicce once had a more specific sense than the later general one of “female magician, sorceress” perhaps is suggested by the presence of other words in O.E. describing more specific kinds of magical craft. In the Laws of Ælfred (c.890), witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman’s craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the W. Saxons:
Ða fæmnan þe gewuniað onfon gealdorcræftigan & scinlæcan & wiccan, ne læt þu ða libban.”
The other two words combined with it here are gealdricge, a woman who practices “incantations,” and scinlæce “female wizard, woman magician,” from a root meaning “phantom, evil spirit.” Another word that appears in the Anglo-Saxon laws is lyblæca”wizard, sorcerer,” but with suggestions of skill in the use of drugs, since the root of the word is lybb “drug, poison, charm.”Lybbestre was a fem. word meaning “sorceress,” and lybcorn was the name of a certain medicinal seed (perhaps wild saffron). Weekly notes possible connection to Gothic weihs “holy” and Ger. weihan “consecrate,” and writes, “the priests of a suppressed religion naturally become magicians to its successors or opponents.”
In Anglo-Saxon glossaries, wicca renders L. augur (c.1100), and wicce stands for “pythoness, divinatricem.” In the “Three Kings of Cologne” (c.1400) wicca translates Magi:
Þe paynyms … cleped þe iij kyngis Magos, þat is to seye wicchis.
The glossary translates L. necromantia (“demonum invocatio”) with galdre, wiccecræft. The Anglo-Saxon poem called “Men’s Crafts” has wiccræft, which appears to be the same word, and by its context means “skill with horses.”
In a c.1250 translation of “Exodus,” witches is used of the Egyptian midwives who save the newborn sons of the Hebrews: “Ðe wicches hidden hem for-ðan, Biforen pharaun nolden he ben.” Witch in ref. to a man survived in dialect into 20c., but the fem. form was so dominant by 1601 that men-witches or he-witch began to be used. Extended sense of “young woman or girl of bewitching aspect or manners” is first recorded 1740. Witch doctor is from 1718; applied to African magicians from 1836.
At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, ‘she is a witch,’ or ‘she is a wise woman.’ [Reginald Scot, “The Discoverie of Witchcraft,” 1584]
Butterfly ?O.E. buttorfleoge, perhaps based on the old notion that the insects (or witches disguised as butterflies) consume butter or milk that is left uncovered. Or, less creatively, simply because the pale yellow color of many species’ wings suggests the color of butter.
Another theory connects it to the color of the insect’s excrement, based on Du. cognate boterschijte. A fascinating overview of words for “butterfly” in various languages can be found here. The swimming stroke so called from 1936. Butterflies “light stomach spasms caused by anxiety” is from 1908.
The butterfly effect is a deceptively simple insight extracted from a complex modern field. As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT’s department of meteorology in 1961, [Edward] Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?” [Peter Dizikes, “The Meaning of the Butterfly,” The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008]
?An O.E. masc. noun meaning “male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, magician;” see witch. Use of the word in modern contexts traces to English folklorist Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), who is said to have joined circa 1939 an occult group in New Forest, Hampshire, England, for which he claimed an unbroken tradition to medieval times. Gardner seems to have first used it in print in 1954, in his book “Witchcraft Today” (e.g.: “Witches were the Wica or wise people, with herbal knowledge and a working occult teaching usually used for good ….”).
In published and unpublished material, he apparently only ever used the word as a mass noun referring to adherents of the practice and not as the name of the practice itself. Some of his followers continue to use it in this sense. According to Gardner’s book “The Meaning of Witchcraft” (1959), the word, as used in the initiation ceremony, played a key role in his experience:
I realised that I had stumbled upon something interesting; but I was half-initiated before the word, ‘Wica’ which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed. And so I found myself in the Circle, and there took the usual oath of secrecy, which bound me not to reveal certain things.
In the late 1960s the term came into use as the title of a modern pagan movement associated with witchcraft. The first printed reference in this usage seems to be 1969, in “The Truth About Witchcraft” by freelance author Hans Holzer:
If the practice of the Old Religion, which is also called Wicca (Craft of the Wise), and thence, witchcraft, is a reputable and useful cult, then it is worthy of public interest.
And, quoting witch Alex Sanders:
“No, a witch wedding still needs a civil ceremony to make it legal. Wicca itself as a religion is not registered yet. But it is about time somebody registered it, I think. I’ve done all I can to call attention to our religion.”
Sanders was a highly visible representative of neo-pagan Witchcraft in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During this time he appears to have popularized use of the term in this sense. Later books c.1989 teaching modernized witchcraft using the same term account for its rise and popularity, especially in U.S.Hobbit ?1937, coined in the fantasy tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973).
On a blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why. [Tolkien, letter to W.H. Auden, dated 1955]
The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d.1859), printed in volume 2 of “The Denham Tracts” [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham’s scattered publications. Denham was an early folklorist who concentrated on Northumberland, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland.
What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars’ lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost.
Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!
It is curious that the name occurs nowhere else in folklore, and there is no evidence that Tolkien ever saw this.Hobbitry attested from 1947.hag ?early 13c., “ugly old woman,” probably a shortening of O.E. hægtesse “witch, fury” (on assumption that -tesse was a suffix), from P.Gmc. *hagatusjon-, of unknown origin. Similar shortening produced Du. heks, Ger. Hexe “witch” from cognate M.Du. haghetisse, O.H.G. hagzusa.
First element is probably cognate with O.E. haga “enclosure, portion of woodland marked off for cutting” (seehedge). O.N. had tunriða and O.H.G. zunritha, both lit. “hedge-rider,” used of witches and ghosts. Second element may be connected with Norw. tysja “fairy; crippled woman,” Gaul. dusius “demon,” Lith. dvasia “spirit,” from PIE *dhewes- “to fly about, smoke, be scattered, vanish.”
One of the magic words for which there is no male form, suggesting its original meaning was close to “diviner, soothsayer,” which were always female in northern European paganism, and hægtesse seem at one time to have meant “woman of prophetic and oracular powers” (Ælfric uses it to render the Greek “pythoness,” the voice of the Delphic oracle), a figure greatly feared and respected. Later, the word was used of village wise women.
Haga is also the haw- in hawthorn, which is an important tree in northern European pagan religion. There may be several layers of folk etymology here. Confusion or blending with heathenish is suggested by M.E. hæhtis, hægtis “hag, witch, fury, etc.,” andhaetnesse “goddess,” used of Minerva and Diana.
If the hægtesse was once a powerful supernatural woman (in Norse it is an alternative word for Norn, any of the three weird sisters, the equivalent of the Fates), it might originally have carried the hawthorn sense. Later, when the pagan magic was reduced to local scatterings, it might have had the sense of “hedge-rider,” or “she who straddles the hedge,” because the hedge was the boundary between the “civilized” world of the village and the wild world beyond.
The hægtesse would have a foot in each reality. Even later, when it meant the local healer and root collector, living in the open and moving from village to village, it may have had the mildly pejorative sense of hedge- in M.E. (hedge-priest, etc.), suggesting an itinerant sleeping under bushes, perhaps. The same word could have contained all three senses before being reduced to its modern one.
Dracula ?”king of the vampires” in Bram Stoker’s novel (1897). It was a nickname of Prince Vlad of Wallachia (d.1476).vampire ?1734, from Fr. vampire or Ger. Vampir (1732, in an account of Hungarian vampires), from Hung. vampir, from O.C.S. opiri (cf. Serb. vampir, Bulg. vapir, Ukrainian uper), said by Slavic linguist Franc Miklošic to be ultimtely from Kazan Tatar ubyr “witch,” but Max Vasmer, an expert in this linguistic area, finds that phonetically doubtful. An Eastern European creature popularized in English by late 19c. gothic novels, however there are scattered English accounts of night-walking, blood-gorged, plague-spreading undead corpses from as far back as 1196. Applied 1774 by French biologist Buffon to a species of South American blood-sucking bat.
ACE FOLKLIFE GUIDE ON FAIRIES
Sidhe “the hills of the fairies,” 1793; but in Yeats, “the fairie folk” (1899), elipsis of Ir. (aos) sidhe “people of the faerie mound” (cf. second element in banshee).fairy c.1300, fairie, “enchantment, magic,” from O.Fr. faerie “land of fairies, meeting of fairies, enchantment, magic,” from fae “fay,” from L. fata (pl.) “the Fates,” from PIE *bha- “to speak” (see fame).
As “a supernatural creature” from late 14c. [contra Tolkien; cf. “This maketh that ther been no fairyes” in “Wife of Bath’s Tale”], perhaps via intermediate forms such as fairie knight”supernatural or legendary knight” (early 14c.).
The diminutive winged beings so-called in children’s stories seem to date from early 17c.
Yet I suspect that this flower-and-butterfly minuteness was also a product of “rationalization,” which transformed the glamour of Elfland into mere finesse, and invisibility into a fragility that could hide in a cowslip or shrink behind a blade of grass. It seems to become fashionable soon after the great voyages had begun to make the world seem too narrow to hold both men and elves; when the magic land of Hy Breasail in the West had become the mere Brazils, the land of red-dye-wood. [J.R.R. Tolkien,” On Fairy-Stories,” 1947]
The slang meaning “effeminate male homosexual” is first recorded 1895. Fairy ring is from 1590s. Fossil sea urchins found on the English downlands were called fairy loaves.good-neighbor also (chiefly British English) good-neighbour, adj. phrase, in reference to U.S. foreign policy, especially in Latin America, 1928, originally in Herbert Hoover. The good neighbours is Scottish euphemism for “the fairies” (1580s).
Oaf 1610s (implied in oafish), also auf (1620s), “a changeling; a foolish child left by the fairies” [Johnson], from a Scandinavian source, cf. Norw. alfr “silly person,” in O.N., “elf” (see elf). Hence, “a misbegotten, deformed idiot.” Until recently, some dictionaries still gave the plural as oaves.myth 1830, from Gk. mythos “speech, thought, story, myth,” of unknown origin.
Myths are “stories about divine beings, generally arranged in a coherent system; they are revered as true and sacred; they are endorsed by rulers and priests; and closely linked to religion. Once this link is broken, and the actors in the story are not regarded as gods but as human heroes, giants or fairies, it is no longer a myth but a folktale. Where the central actor is divine but the story is trivial … the result is religious legend, not myth.” [J. Simpson & S. Roud, “Dictionary of English Folklore,” Oxford, 2000, p.254]
General sense of “untrue story, rumor” is from 1840.gentry c.1300, “nobility of rank or birth,” from O.Fr. genterise, variant of gentilise “noble birth, gentleness,” from gentil (see gentle). Meaning “noble persons” is from 1520s. Earlier in both senses was gentrice (c.1200 as “nobility of character,” late 14c. as “noble persons”).
In Anglo-Irish, gentry was a name for “the fairies” (1880), and gentle could mean “enchanted” (1823).Pict an ancient people of Great Britain, late 14c., from L.L. Picti (late 3c., probably a nickname given them by Roman soldiers), usually taken as derived from picti “painted,” but probably ultimately from the Celtic name of the tribe, perhaps Pehta, Peihta, lit. “the fighters” (cf. Gaul. Pictavi, who gave the name to the French city of Poitiers). They painted and tattooed themselves, which may have suggested a Roman folk-etymology alteration of the name. The O.E. name for the people was Peohtas.
In Scottish folk-lore the Pechts are often represented as a dark pygmy race, or an underground people; and sometimes identified with elves, brownies, or fairies. [OED]
Source: Etymology Online Dictionary