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Etymology 1Edit

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From Middle English wicche, from Old English wiċċe (sorceress, witch) f. and wicca (witch, sorcerer, warlock) m., deverbative from wiccian (to practice sorcery), from Proto-Germanic *wikkōną (compare West Frisian wikje, wikke (to foretell, warn), Low German wicken (to soothsay), Dutch wikken, wichelen (to dowse, divine)), from Proto-Indo-European *wik-néh₂-, derivation of *weyk- (to consecrate; separate);[1] akin to Latin victima (sacrificial victim), Lithuanian viẽkas (life-force), Sanskrit विनक्ति (vinákti, to set apart, separate out).


witch (plural witches)

  1. A person who practices witchcraft; a woman or (archaic outside dialectal and Wicca) man who practices witchcraft.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter viij, in Le Morte Darthur, book I:
      Some of the kynges had merueyl of Merlyns wordes and demed well that it shold be as he said / And som of hem lough hym to scorne / as kyng Lot / and mo other called hym a wytche / But thenne were they accorded with Merlyn that kynge Arthur shold come oute and speke with the kynges.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Wyclif Bible (Acts viii. 9)
      There was a man in that city whose name was Simon, a witch.
    1. (now usually particularly) A woman who is learned in and actively practices witchcraft.
      • (Can we date this quote?) Shakespeare:
        He cannot abide the old woman of Brentford; he swears she's a witch.
  2. (derogatory) An ugly or unpleasant woman.
    I hate that old witch.
  3. One who exercises more-than-common power of attraction; a charming or bewitching person.
  4. One given to mischief, especially a woman or child.
  5. (geometry) A certain curve of the third order, described by Maria Agnesi under the name versiera.
  6. The stormy petrel.
  7. Any of a number of flatfish:
    1. Glyptocephalus cynoglossus (Torbay sole), found in the North Atlantic.
    2. Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis (megrim), found in the North Atlantic.
    3. Arnoglossus scapha, found near New Zealand.
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Further readingEdit


witch (third-person singular simple present witches, present participle witching, simple past and past participle witched)

  1. (obsolete, intransitive) To practise witchcraft.
  2. (obsolete, transitive) To bewitch.
    • 1900, Gilbert Murray, Andromache: A Play in Three Acts:
      She has witched the Queen's womb long ago, and witched the whole harvest.
  3. (transitive) To dowse for water.
    • 1964, Hilda E. Webb, Water Witching and Other Folk Talents in the Neighborhood of Bloomington, Indiana:
      And I told him there's a vein down there, I know 'caus I used to--uh, I went out here and witched one for this house, at the corner.
    • 2006, Helen Ayers, Appalachian Daughter: The Exodus of the Mountaineers from Appalachia:
      Nothing would make him shut up until I brought my dogwood stick into his office and witched for water.
    • 2010, C.J. Ott, True Stories: Memories, Musings, Odds and Ends:
      Eventually, Don and Jim built nice big houses on their lots. We enjoyed watching them being built. I remember Don's builder came out and “witched” for a well.
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See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Guus Kroonen, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 586.

Etymology 2Edit

Compare wick.


witch (plural witches)

  1. A cone of paper which is placed in a vessel of lard or other fat and used as a taper.