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coven

[kuhv-uh n, koh-vuh n] /ˈkʌv ən, ˈkoʊ vən/
noun
1.
an assembly of witches, especially a group of thirteen.
Origin
1500-1510
1500-10 for sense “assembly”; 1655-65 for current sense; variant of obsolete covent assembly, religious group, convent
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for coven
  • Investigations would no longer be conducted by a coven of professionals working in secret.
British Dictionary definitions for coven

coven

/ˈkʌvən/
noun
1.
a meeting of witches
2.
a company of 13 witches
Word Origin
C16: probably from Old French covin group, ultimately from Latin convenīre to come together; compare convent
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for coven
n.

"a gathering of witches," 1660s, earlier (c.1500) a variant of covent, cuvent early forms of convent. Association with witches arose in Scotland, but not popularized until Sir Walter Scott used it in this sense in "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft" (1830).

Efter that tym ther vold meit bot somtymes a Coven, somtymes mor, somtymes les; bot a Grand Meitting vold be about the end of ilk Quarter. Ther is threttein persones in ilk Coeven; and ilk on of vs has an Sprit to wait wpon ws, quhan ve pleas to call wpon him. I remember not all the Spritis names; bot thair is on called "Swein," quhilk waitis wpon the said Margret Wilson in Aulderne; he is still clothed in grass-grein .... ["Criminal Trials in Scotland," III, appendix, p.606, confession of Issobell Gowdie in Lochloy in 1662]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for coven

basic group in which witches are said to gather. One of the chief proponents of the theory of a coven was the English Egyptologist Margaret Murray in her work The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921). According to her a coven consists of 12 witches and a devil as leader. The number is generally taken as a parody of Christ and his 12 disciples. (An alternate theory, stressing the Murray view of a pre-Christian tradition of witches, explains 13 as the maximum number of dancers that can be accommodated in a nine-foot circle.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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