"one of a class of spiritual beings, attendants and messengers of God," a c. 1300 fusion of Old English engel (with hard -g-) and Old French angele. Both are from Late Latin angelus, from Greek angelos, literally "messenger, envoy, one that announces," in the New Testament "divine messenger," which is possibly related to angaros "mounted courier," both from an unknown Oriental word (Watkins compares Sanskrit ajira- "swift;" Klein suggests Semitic sources).
The Greek word was used in Scriptural translations for Hebrew mal'akh (yehowah) "messenger (of Jehovah)," from base l-'-k "to send." An Old English word for it was aerendgast, literally "errand-spirit."
Of persons, "one who is loving, gracious, or lovely," by 1590s. The medieval English gold coin (a new issue of the noble, first struck 1465 by Edward VI) was so called for the image of archangel Michael slaying the dragon, which was stamped on it. It was the coin given to patients who had been "touched" for the King's Evil. Angel food cake is from 1881; angel dust "phencyclidine" is from 1968.
updated on September 21, 2022