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late 15c., "living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power," from Latin victima "person or animal killed as a sacrifice." Perhaps distantly connected to Old English wig "idol," Gothic weihs "holy," German weihen "consecrate" (cf. Weihnachten "Christmas") on notion of "a consecrated animal." Sense of "person who is hurt, tortured, or killed by another" is first recorded 1650s; meaning "person oppressed by some power or situation" is from 1718. Weaker sense of "person taken advantage of" is recorded from 1781.