late 14c., "a feeble and withered old woman," in Middle English a strong term of abuse, from Anglo-French carogne "carrion, carcass; an old ewe," also a term of abuse, from Old North French carogne, Old French charogne, term of abuse for a cantankerous or withered woman, also "old sheep," literally "carrion," from Vulgar Latin *caronia (see carrion).
Perhaps the "old ewe" sense is older than the "old woman" one in French, but the former is attested in English only from 16c. Since mid-20c. The word has been somewhat reclaimed in feminism and neo-paganism as a symbol of mature female wisdom and power.
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