late 14c., divinacioun, "act of foretelling by supernatural or magical means the future, or discovering what is hidden or obscure," from Old French divination (13c.), from Latin divinationem (nominative divinatio) "the power of foreseeing, prediction," noun of action from past-participle stem of divinare, literally "to be inspired by a god," from divinus "of a god," from divus "a god," related to deus "god, deity" (from PIE root *dyeu- "to shine," in derivatives "sky, heaven, god"). Related: Divinatory.
Divination hath been anciently and fitly divided into artificial and natural; whereof artificial is when the mind maketh a prediction by argument, concluding upon signs and tokens: natural is when the mind hath a presention by an internal power, without the inducement of a sign. [Francis Bacon, "The Advancement of Learning," 1605]
late 14c., divinen, "learn or make out by or as if by divination, foretell" future events (trans.), also intransitive, "use or practice divination;" from Old French deviner, from Vulgar Latin *devinare, a dissimilation of Latin divinare "foresee, foretell, predict," from divinus "of a god," from divus "of or belonging to a god, inspired, prophetic," which is related to deus "god, deity" (from PIE root *dyeu- "to shine," in derivatives "sky, heaven, god").
Latin divinus also meant, as a noun, "soothsayer." English divine (v.) is also attested from late 14c. in the sense of "make out by observations or otherwise; make a guess or conjecture" without reference to supernatural insight. The earliest English sense is "to contrive, plot" (mid-14c.). Related: Divined; divining. Divining rod (or wand) is attested from 1650s.
Applied variously over the years, including to the followers of Swedenborg. Taken as the name of a modern philosophical system (sometimes called Esoteric Buddhism), founded in New York 1875 as "Theosophical Society" by Madame Blavatsky and others, which has elements of Hinduism and Buddhism and claims supernatural knowledge of the divinity and his words deeper than that obtained from empiricism. Related: Theosophist.
late 15c., "living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power, or in the performance of a religious rite;" from Latin victima "sacrificial animal; person or animal killed as a sacrifice," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps related to vicis "turn, occasion" (as in vicarious), if the notion is an "exchange" with the gods. Perhaps distantly connected to Old English wig "idol," Gothic weihs "holy," German weihen "consecrate" (compare Weihnachten "Christmas") on notion of "a consecrated animal."
Sense of "person who is hurt, tortured, or killed by another" is recorded from 1650s; meaning "person oppressed by some power or situation, person ruined or greatly injured or made to suffer in the pursuit of an object, or for the gratification of a passion or infatuation, or from disease or disaster" is from 1718. Weaker sense of "person taken advantage of, one who is cheated or duped" is recorded from 1781.
"next in order after the fifth; an ordinal numeral; being one of six equal parts into which a whole is regarded as divided;" 1520s, replacing Middle English sixte (c. 1200), from Old English syxte, from siex (see six). Compare Old Frisian sexta, Middle Dutch seste, Old High German sehsto, German sechste, Gothic saihsta. With ending conformed to -th (1). Related: Sixthly. The noun meaning "a sixth part" is from 1550s. As a music tone, from 1590s. Sixth sense "supernatural perception of objects" is attested from 1712; earlier it meant "titillation, the sense that apprehends sexual pleasure" (1690s, from Scaliger).
Then said Peter, That is false; for there is a sixth Sense, that of Prescience : for the other five Senses are capable only of Knowledg ; but the Sixth of Foreknowledg ; which Sense the Prophets had. [William Whitson, "Primitive Christianity Reviv'd," vol. v, London, 1712]
c. 1400, "having power to control fate," from wierd (n.), from Old English wyrd "fate, chance, fortune; destiny; the Fates," literally "that which comes," from Proto-Germanic *wurthiz (source also of Old Saxon wurd, Old High German wurt "fate," Old Norse urðr "fate, one of the three Norns"), from PIE *wert- "to turn, to wind," (source also of German werden, Old English weorðan "to become"), from root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend." For sense development from "turning" to "becoming," compare phrase turn into "become."
The sense "uncanny, supernatural" developed from Middle English use of weird sisters for the three Fates or Norns (in Germanic mythology), the goddesses who controlled human destiny. They were portrayed as odd or frightening in appearance, as in "Macbeth" (and especially in 18th and 19th century productions of it), which led to the adjectival meaning "odd-looking, uncanny" (1815); "odd, strange, disturbingly different" (1820). Related: Weirdly; weirdness.
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.
Old English mægen (Mercian megen) "power, bodily strength; force, violent effort; strength of mind or will; efficacy; supernatural power," from Proto-Germanic *maginam "power" (source also of Old High German megin "strength, power, ability"), suffixed form of PIE root *magh- "to be able, have power."
Original sense of "power" is preserved in phrase might and main. Also used in Middle English for "royal power or authority" (c. 1400), "military strength" (c. 1300), "application of force" (c. 1300). Meaning "chief or main part" (c. 1600) now is archaic or obsolete. Meaning "principal duct, pipe, or channel in a utility system" is first recorded 1727 in main drain.
Used since 1540s for "continuous stretch of land or water;" in nautical jargon used loosely for "the ocean," but in Spanish Main the word is short for mainland and refers to the coast between Panama and Orinoco (as contrasted to the islands of the West Indies).
Old English gast "breath; good or bad spirit, angel, demon; person, man, human being," in Biblical use "soul, spirit, life," from Proto-West Germanic *gaistaz (source also of Old Saxon gest, Old Frisian jest, Middle Dutch gheest, Dutch geest, German Geist "spirit, ghost"). This is conjectured to be from a PIE root *gheis-, used in forming words involving the notions of excitement, amazement, or fear (source also of Sanskrit hedah "wrath;" Avestan zaesha- "horrible, frightful;" Gothic usgaisjan, Old English gæstan "to frighten").
Ghost is the English representative of the usual West Germanic word for "supernatural being." In Christian writing in Old English it is used to render Latin spiritus (see spirit (n.)), a sense preserved in Holy Ghost. Sense of "disembodied spirit of a dead person," especially imagined as wandering among the living or haunting them, is attested from late 14c. and returns the word toward its likely prehistoric sense.
Most Indo-European words for "soul, spirit" also double with reference to supernatural spirits. Many have a base sense of "appearance" (such as Greek phantasma; French spectre; Polish widmo, from Old Church Slavonic videti "to see;" Old English scin, Old High German giskin, originally "appearance, apparition," related to Old English scinan, Old High German skinan "to shine"). Other concepts are in French revenant, literally "returning" (from the other world), Old Norse aptr-ganga, literally "back-comer." Breton bugelnoz is literally "night-child." Latin manes probably is a euphemism.
The gh- spelling appeared early 15c. in Caxton, influenced by Flemish and Middle Dutch gheest, but was rare in English before mid-16c. Sense of "slight suggestion, mere shadow or semblance" (in ghost image, ghost of a chance, etc.) is first recorded 1610s; sense of "one who secretly does work for another" is from 1884. Ghost town is from 1908. Ghost story is by 1811. Ghost-word "apparent word or false form in a manuscript due to a blunder" is from 1886 (Skeat). Ghost in the machine was British philosopher Gilbert Ryle's term (1949) for "the mind viewed as separate from the body." The American Indian ghost dance is from 1890. To give up the ghost "die" was in Old English.
proper name of the supreme evil spirit and great adversary of humanity in Christianity, Old English Satan, from Late Latin Satan (in Vulgate in the Old Testament only), from Greek Satanas, from Hebrew satan "adversary, one who plots against another," from satan "to show enmity to, oppose, plot against," from root s-t-n "one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as an adversary."
In the Septuagint usually translated into Greek as diabolos "slanderer," literally "one who throws (something) across" the path of another (see devil (n.)), though epiboulos "plotter" is once used.
In biblical sources the Hebrew term the satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as the sixth century B.C.E. occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity. [Elaine Pagels, "The Origin of Satan," 1995]
In Middle English also Satanas, Sathanas.