early 15c., "supernatural appearance or manifestation," from Anglo-French aparicion, Old French aparicion, aparoison (15c.), used in reference to the Epiphany (the revealing of the Christ child to the Wise Men), from Late Latin apparitionem (nominative apparitio) "an appearance," also "attendants," in classical Latin "service; servants," noun of action from past participle stem of apparere "appear" (see appear). Meaning "ghost" first recorded c. 1600; the sense differentiation between appearance and apparition is that the latter tends to be unexpected or startling. Related: Apparitional.
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