early 15c., "conjurer of evil spirits," displacing earlier sorcer (late 14c.), from Old French sorcier, from Medieval Latin sortarius "teller of fortunes by lot; sorcerer" (also source of Spanish sortero, Italian sortiere; see sorcery). With superfluous -er, as in poulterer, upholsterer; perhaps the modern form of the word is back-formed from sorcery.
Sorcerer's apprentice translates l'apprenti sorcier, title of a symphonic poem by Paul Dukas (1897) based on a Goethe ballad ("Der Zauberlehrling," 1797), but the common figurative use of the term in English (1952) comes after Disney's "Fantasia" (1940).
updated on March 22, 2022