late 14c., "a message from a god expressed by divine inspiration through a priest or priestess," in answer to a human inquiry, usually respecting some future event, from Old French oracle "temple, house of prayer; oracle" (12c.) and directly from Latin oraculum, oraclum "divine announcement, oracle; place where oracles are given," from ōrare "to pray to, plead to, beseech" (see orator), with material instrumental suffix -culo-.
In antiquity, "the agency or medium of a god," also "the place where such divine utterances were given." This last sense is attested in English from early 15c. Extended sense of "uncommonly wise person" is from 1590s.
updated on January 04, 2020