Etymology
Advertisement
Advertisement
hazel (n.)

Old English hæsl, hæsel, from Proto-Germanic *hasalaz (source also of Old Norse hasl, Middle Dutch hasel, German hasel), from PIE *koselo- "hazel" (source also of Latin corulus, Old Irish coll "hazel"). Shakespeare ("Romeo and Juliet," 1592) was first to use it (in print) in the sense of "reddish-brown color of eyes" (in reference to the color of ripe hazel-nuts), when Mercutio accuses Benvolio:

Thou wilt quarrell with a man for cracking Nuts, hauing no reason, but because thou hast hasell eyes.
Related entries & more 
witch (n.)

Old English wicce "female magician, sorceress," in later use especially "a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts," fem. of Old English wicca "sorcerer, wizard, man who practices witchcraft or magic," from verb wiccian "to practice witchcraft" (compare Low German wikken, wicken "to use witchcraft," wikker, wicker "soothsayer").

OED says of uncertain origin; Liberman says "None of the proposed etymologies of witch is free from phonetic or semantic difficulties." Klein suggests connection with Old English wigle "divination," and wig, wih "idol." Watkins says the nouns represent a Proto-Germanic *wikkjaz "necromancer" (one who wakes the dead), from PIE *weg-yo-, from PIE root *weg- "to be strong, be lively."

That wicce once had a more specific sense than the later general one of "female magician, sorceress" perhaps is suggested by the presence of other words in Old English describing more specific kinds of magical craft. In the Laws of Ælfred (c. 890), witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman's craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the West Saxons:

Ða fæmnan þe gewuniað onfon gealdorcræftigan & scinlæcan & wiccan, ne læt þu ða libban.

The other two words combined with it here are gealdricge, a woman who practices "incantations," and scinlæce "female wizard, woman magician," from a root meaning "phantom, evil spirit."

Another word that appears in the Anglo-Saxon laws is lyblæca "wizard, sorcerer," but with suggestions of skill in the use of drugs, because the root of the word is lybb "drug, poison, charm" (see leaf (n.)). Lybbestre was a fem. word meaning "sorceress," and lybcorn was the name of a certain medicinal seed (perhaps wild saffron). Weekley notes possible connection to Gothic weihs "holy" and German weihan "consecrate," and writes, "the priests of a suppressed religion naturally become magicians to its successors or opponents." Whatever the English word's origin, the use of a "poisoner" word for "witch, sorceress" parallels that of the Hebrew word used for "witch, sorceress" in the Levitical condemnation.

In Anglo-Saxon glossaries, wicca renders Latin augur (c. 1100), and wicce stands for "pythoness, divinatricem." In the "Three Kings of Cologne" (c. 1400) wicca translates Magi:

Þe paynyms ... cleped þe iij kyngis Magos, þat is to seye wicchis.

The glossary translates Latin necromantia ("demonum invocatio") with galdre, wiccecræft. The Anglo-Saxon poem called "Men's Crafts" (also "The Gifts of Men") has wiccræft, which appears to be the same word, and by its context means "skill with horses." In a c. 1250 translation of "Exodus," witches is used of the Egyptian midwives who save the newborn sons of the Hebrews: "Ðe wicches hidden hem for-ðan, Biforen pharaun nolden he ben."

Witch in reference to a man survived in dialect into 20c., but the fem. form was so dominant by 1601 that men-witches or he-witch began to be used. Extended sense of "old, ugly, and crabbed or malignant woman" is from early 15c; that of "young woman or girl of bewitching aspect or manners" is first recorded 1740. Witch doctor is from 1718; applied to African magicians from 1836.

At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, 'she is a witch,' or 'she is a wise woman.' [Reginald Scot, "The Discoverie of Witchcraft," 1584]
Related entries & more 
hazelnut (n.)

also hazel-nut, Old English hæselhnutu; see hazel + nut. Similar formation in Dutch hazelnoot, Old High German hasalnuz, German Haselnuss.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
enchantress (n.)

late 14c., "witch," from enchanter + -ess. Meaning "charming woman" is from 1713.

Related entries & more 
hex (v.)

1830, American English, from Pennsylvania German hexe "to practice witchcraft," from German hexen "to hex," related to Hexe "witch," from Middle High German hecse, hexse, from Old High German hagazussa (see hag). Noun meaning "magic spell" is first recorded 1909; earlier it meant "a witch" (1856). Compare Middle English hexte "the devil" (mid-13c.), perhaps originally "sorcerer," probably from Old English haehtis.

Related entries & more 
hassle (n.)

"fuss, trouble," 1945, American English (in "Down Beat" magazine), perhaps from U.S. Southern dialectal hassle "to pant, breathe noisily" (1928), of unknown origin; or perhaps from hatchel "to harass" (1800), which may be a variant of hazel, the name of the plant that furnished switches for whippings. Noted in 1946 as a show biz vogue word.

Related entries & more 
catkin (n.)

"spike of a flowering tree or shrub (especially a willow or birch) after fruiting," 1570s, from Dutch katteken "flowering stem of willow, birch, hazel, etc.," literally "kitten," diminutive of katte "cat" (see cat (n.)). So called for their soft, furry appearance.

Related entries & more