mid-14c., enointen, "pour oil upon, smear with ointment," from Old French enoint "smeared on," past participle of enoindre "smear on," from Latin inunguere "to anoint," from in- "in, into" (see in) + unguere "to smear" (see unguent (n.)).
Forms in a- by late 14c. Originally in reference to grease or oil smeared on for medicinal purposes; its use in the Coverdale Bible in reference to Christ (as in The Lord's Anointed; see chrism) has spiritualized the word. Related: Anointed; anointing (c. 1300 as a verbal noun).
updated on September 22, 2022