Of Old Iranian origin presumably akin to Old Persian/Median 𐎶𐎦𐎢𐏁 (maγu-) and Avestan moġu- (moġu-). Both attested Old Iranian words are hapaxes, and of indeterminable meaning. Possibly from Proto-Indo-European *meh₂gh- (“to be able to, to help; power, sorcerer”). Probably unrelated to Av. maga- (cognate with Skt. magha-, "gift"). Attestation in Greek predates attestation in Old Iranian.
- (5th BC Attic): IPA: /máɡos/
- (1st BC Egyptian): IPA: /máɣos/
- (4th AD Koine): IPA: /máɣos/
- (10th AD Byzantine): IPA: /máɣos/
- (15th AD Constantinopolitan): IPA: /máɣos/
- (common, nonspecific) magician, and derogatorily sorcerer, trickster, conjurer, charlatan
- (common, specific) a Zoroastrian priest. Compare e.g. Herodotus Hist. 1.132f, Xenophon Cyropedia 8.3.11, Porphyry Life of Pythagoras 12, Heraclitus apud Clemens Protrepticus 12, etc.
- (hapax) name of one of the tribes of the Medes. This usage is only attested once; Herodotus Histories 1.101.
- Note 1: meanings #1 and #2 overlap in classical usage— both derive from the Greek (and generally Hellenistic) identification of "Zoroaster" as the "inventor" of astrology and magic. The first meaning ('magician') derives from the sense of "practitioner of the Zoroaster's craft", and the second meaning ('priest') from the sense of "practitioner of Zoroaster's religion".
- Note 2: meanings #2 and #3 were frequently conflated as one in 18th/19th/early 20th-century usage, giving "name of a Median priestly tribe" or similar. This combined meaning is no longer used in current scholarship.