1580s, from French initiation or directly from Latin initiationem (nominative initiatio) "participation in secret rites," noun of action from past-participle stem of initiare "originate, initiate," from initium "a beginning" (see initial (adj.)).
In some senses the English word is a back-formation from initiation. Related: Initiated; initiates; initiating; initiator.
It forms all or part of: Abitur; adit; ambience; ambient; ambit; ambition; ambitious; andante; anion; cation; circuit; coitus; commence; commencement; concomitant; constable; count (n.1) title of nobility; county; dysprosium; errant; exit; initial; initiate; initiation; introit; ion; issue; itinerant; itinerary; janitor; January; Janus; Jena; Mahayana; obiter; obituary; perish; praetor; Praetorian; preterite; sedition; sudden; trance; transient; transit; transitive; viscount.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit e'ti "goes," imas "we go," ayanam "a going, way;" Avestan ae'iti "goes," Old Persian aitiy "goes;" Greek ienai "to go;" Latin ire "to go," iter "a way;" Old Irish ethaim "I go," Irish bothar "a road" (from *bou-itro- "cows' way"), Gaulish eimu "we go;" Lithuanian eiti "to go;" Old Church Slavonic iti "go;" Bulgarian ida "I go;" Russian idti "to go;" Gothic iddja "went."
"interpretation of mysteries; the practice of a mystagogue," 1570s, from French mystagogie, from Latin mystagogia, from Greek mystagōgia "initiation into the mysteries," from mystagōgos "one who initiates into the mysteries" (see mystagogue). Related: Mystagoguery (1927).
"brutal initiation, act of abusing a newcomer," 1848, said to be a college word ("This word is used at Harvard College, to express the treatment which Freshmen sometimes receive from the higher classes, and especially from the Sophomores" -- "Collection of College Words and Customs," Boston, 1851), but perhaps originally nautical; see haze (v.).
The thing is older than the word. Compare pennalism "exceptional tyrannical hazing of college freshmen by older students at 17c. German Protestant universities," from German pennal (from Latin) "a pen-case;" also "a freshman," so called for the cases they dutifully carried to lectures.
1875, from Italian Mafia "Sicilian secret society of criminals" (the prevailing sense outside Sicily), earlier, "spirit of hostility to the law and its ministers." A member is a mafioso (1870), fem. mafiosa, plural mafiosi, and this may be the older word in this sense. Arabic is often cited as the ultimate source (the Arabs ruled Sicily for more than two centuries in the Middle Ages), but which Arabic word is a matter of disagreement.
The most likely origin of the actual meaning of mafioso and its derivative mafia — as suggested by the nineteenth-century Sicilian ethnographer Giuseppe Pitrè — is a play by Placido Rizzoto, I Mafiusi della Vicaria, first performed in 1863. ... The play concerns a group of prisoners in the Palermo jail who command particular respect: although individualistic and quarrelsome, they are members of an association with distinct patterns of behavior (including an initiation ritual) and a hierarchy, which claims it can influence the political and administrative system of the island. [Diego Gambetta, "The Sicilian Mafia," Harvard, 1993]
The immediate source of mafioso, then, would be 19c. Sicilian mafiusu, "signifying a bully, arrogant but also fearless, enterprising, and proud" [Gambetta], who favors as the Arabic source an adjective from marfud "rejected."
An Old English masc. noun meaning "male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, astrologer, 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" ("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.