1801, "spectre, apparition, ghost," from Dutch spook, from Middle Dutch spooc "spook, ghost," from a common Germanic source (German Spuk "ghost, apparition," Middle Low German spok "spook," Swedish spok "scarecrow," Norwegian spjok "ghost, specter," Danish spøg "joke"), of unknown origin. According to Klein's sources, possible outside connections include Lettish spigana "dragon, witch," spiganis "will o' the wisp," Lithuanian spingu, spingėti "to shine," Old Prussian spanksti "spark."
Meaning "undercover agent" is attested from 1942. The derogatory racial sense of "black person" is attested from 1940s, perhaps from notion of dark skin being difficult to see at night. Black pilots trained at Tuskegee Institute during World War II called themselves the Spookwaffe.
Old English wærloga "traitor, liar, enemy, devil," from wær "faith, fidelity; a compact, agreement, covenant," from Proto-Germanic *wera- (source also of Old High German wara "truth," Old Norse varar "solemn promise, vow"), from PIE root *were-o- "true, trustworthy." Second element is an agent noun related to leogan "to lie" (see lie (v.1); and compare Old English wordloga "deceiver, liar").
Original primary sense seems to have been "oath-breaker;" given special application to the devil (c. 1000), but also used of giants and cannibals. Meaning "one in league with the devil" is recorded from c. 1300. Ending in -ck (1680s) and meaning "male equivalent of a witch" (1560s) are from Scottish. Related: Warlockery.
early 13c., "repulsive old woman" (rare before 16c.), probably from Old English hægtes, hægtesse "witch, sorceress, enchantress, fury," shortened on the assumption that -tes was a suffix. The Old English word is from Proto-Germanic *hagatusjon, which is of unknown origin. Dutch heks, German Hexe "witch" are similarly shortened from cognate Middle Dutch haghetisse, Old High German hagzusa.
The first element probably is cognate with Old English haga "enclosure, portion of woodland marked off for cutting" (see hedge (n.)). Old Norse had tunriða and Old High German zunritha, both literally "hedge-rider," used of witches and ghosts. The second element in the prehistoric compound may be connected with Norwegian tysja "fairy; crippled woman," Gaulish dusius "demon," Lithuanian 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 Middle English hæhtis, hægtis "hag, witch, fury, etc.," and haetnesse "goddess," used of Minerva and Diana.
If the hægtesse once was 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 Middle English sense of hedge- (hedge-priest, etc.), suggesting an itinerant sleeping under bushes. The same word could have contained all three senses before being reduced to its modern one.
"a remedy which is very effective, almost magical;" see silver (adj.) + bullet (n.). The belief in the magical power of silver weapons to conquer foes goes back at least to ancient Greece (as in Delphic Oracle's advice to Philip of Macedon). In Britain, silver bullets as a superstitious countercharm figure in the fictitious Popish Plot (1678).
'Cause champed silver kills stone-dead
Such as are musket-proof 'gainst lead.
[Thomas Ward, from "England's Reformation," 1710]
English folklore beliefs recorded from early 19c. held that a witch could be wounded or revealed (if transformed) only by a wound from a silver bullet. Similar fancies are reported in folk-tales from Ireland and Iceland. The belief in the killing efficacy of silver bullets was transferred to vampires by 1816.
HORSE-SHOES, the game of coits, or quoits--because sometimes actually played with horse-shoes. [John Trotter Brockett, "A Glossary of North Country Words," 1829]
The belief that finding a horseshoe by chance is lucky is attested from late 14c., and the practice of nailing one above a doorway to prevent a witch entering (or leaving) was common in London down to c. 1800. Of a type of bend in a river, 1770, American English. The horse-shoe crab of the east coast of the U.S. so called by 1809, for its shape; earlier simply horse-shoe (1775); also horse-hoof (1690s), horse-foot (1630s), which Bartlett (1848) identifies as "the common name."
late 14c., magike, "art of influencing or predicting events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces," also "supernatural art," especially the art of controlling the actions of spiritual or superhuman beings; from Old French magique "magic; magical," from Late Latin magice "sorcery, magic," from Greek magike (presumably with tekhnē "art"), fem. of magikos "magical," from magos "one of the members of the learned and priestly class," from Old Persian magush, which is possibly from PIE root *magh- "to be able, have power."
The transferred sense of "legerdemain, optical illusion, etc." is from 1811. It displaced Old English wiccecræft (see witch); also drycræft, from dry "magician," from Irish drui "priest, magician" (see Druid). Natural magic in the Middle Ages was that which did not involve the agency of personal spirits; it was considered more or less legitimate, not sinful, and involved much that would be explained scientifically as the manipulation of natural forces.
1530s, "a cover for the face (with openings for the eyes and mouth), a false face," from French masque "covering to hide or guard the face" (16c.), from Italian maschera, from Medieval Latin masca "mask, specter, nightmare," a word of uncertain origin.
It is perhaps from Arabic maskharah "buffoon, mockery," from sakhira "be mocked, ridiculed." Or it may come via Provençal mascarar, Catalan mascarar, Old French mascurer "to black (the face)," which is perhaps from a Germanic source akin to English mesh (q.v.). But it may be a Provençal word originally: Compare Occitan mascara "to blacken, darken," derived from mask- "black," which is held to be from a pre-Indo-European language, and Old Occitan masco "witch," surviving in dialects; in Beziers it means "dark cloud before the rain comes." [See Walther von Wartburg, "Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch: Eine Darstellung galloromanischen sprachschatzes"].
Figurative meaning "anything used or practiced for disguise or concealment" is by 1570s.
female demon, late 14c., from Latin lamia "witch, sorceress, vampire," from Greek lamia "female vampire, man-eating monster," literally "swallower, lecher," from laimos "throat, gullet" (see larynx). Perhaps cognate with Latin lemures "spirits of the dead" (see lemur) and, like it, borrowed from a non-IE language. Used in early translations of the Bible for screech owls and sea monsters. In Middle English also sometimes, apparently, mermaids:
Also kynde erreþ in som beestes wondirliche j-schape, as it fareþ in a beest þat hatte lamia, þat haþ an heed as a mayde & body as a grym fissche[;] whan þat best lamya may fynde ony man, first a flatereþ wiþ hym with a wommannes face and makeþ hym ligge by here while he may dure, & whanne he may noferþere suffice to here lecherye þanne he rendeþ hym and sleþ and eteþ hym. [Bartholomew Glanville, "De proprietatibus rerum," c. 1240, translated by John of Trevisa c. 1398]
late 14c., "sheep-shearer;" early 15c., "a barber;" c. 1300 as a surname; agent noun from Middle English clippen "shorten" (see clip (v.1)). In late 18c., the word principally meant "one who cuts off the edges of coins" for the precious metal.
The type of sailing ship with sharp lines and a great spread of canvas is so called from 1823 (in Cooper's "The Pilot"), probably from clip (v.1) in sense of "to move or run rapidly." Compare early 19c. clipper "person or animal who looks capable of fast running." Perhaps it was influenced by Middle Dutch klepper "swift horse," which is echoic (Clipper appears as the name of an English race horse in 1831). The nautical sense was perhaps originally simply "fast ship," regardless of type:
Well, you know, the Go-along-Gee was one o' your flash Irish cruisers — the first o' your fir-built frigates — and a clipper she was! Give her a foot o' the sheet, and she'd go like a witch — but somehow o'nother, she'd bag on a bowline to leeward. ["Naval Sketch-Book," by "An officer of rank," London, 1826]
The early association of the ships was with Baltimore, Maryland. Clipper-ship is attested from 1850.
Middle English yelwe, from Old English geolu, geolwe, "yellow," from Proto-Germanic *gelwaz (source also of Old Saxon, Old High German gelo, Middle Dutch ghele, Dutch geel, Middle High German gel, German gelb, Old Norse gulr, Swedish gul "yellow"), from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine," with derivatives denoting "green" and "yellow" (such as Greek khlōros "greenish-yellow," Latin helvus "yellowish, bay").
In Middle English it also was used of a color closer to blue-gray or gray, of frogs or hazel eyes, and as a translation of Latin caeruleus or glauco. The meaning "light-skinned" (in reference to black persons) is recorded by 1808. It was applied to Asiatics by 1787, though that first reference is to Turkish words for inhabitants of India.
Yellow peril translates German die gelbe gefahr. The sense of "cowardly" is by 1856, of unknown origin; the color was traditionally associated rather with jealousy and envy (17c.). Yellow-bellied "cowardly" is from 1924, probably a semi-rhyming reduplication of yellow; earlier yellow-belly was a sailor's name for a half-caste (1867) and a Texas term for Mexican soldiers (1842, based on the color of their uniforms). Yellow dog "mongrel" is attested from c. 1770; the slang sense of "contemptible person" is recorded by 1881. Yellow fever is attested from 1748, American English (jaundice is a symptom).