|1.||a person, usually female, who practises or professes to practise magic or sorcery, esp black magic, or is believed to have dealings with the devil|
|2.||an ugly or wicked old woman|
|3.||a Wiccan priest or priestess|
|4.||a fascinating or enchanting woman|
|5.||short for water witch|
|6.||(tr) to cause or change by or as if by witchcraft|
|7.||a less common word for bewitch|
|[Old English wicca; related to Middle Low German wicken to conjure, Swedish vicka to move to and fro]|
"Ða fæmnan þe gewuniað onfon gealdorcræftigan & scinlæcan & wiccan, ne læt þu ða libban."The other two words combined with it here are gealdricge, a woman who practices "incantations," and scinlæce "female wizard, woman magician," from a root meaning "phantom, evil spirit." Another word that appears in the Anglo-Saxon laws is lyblæca "wizard, sorcerer," but with suggestions of skill in the use of drugs, since the root of the word is lybb "drug, poison, charm." Lybbestre was a fem. word meaning "sorceress," and lybcorn was the name of a certain medicinal seed (perhaps wild saffron). Weekly notes possible connection to Gothic weihs "holy" and Ger. weihan "consecrate," and writes, "the priests of a suppressed religion naturally become magicians to its successors or opponents." In Anglo-Saxon glossaries, wicca renders L. augur (c.1100), and wicce stands for "pythoness, divinatricem." In the "Three Kings of Cologne" (c.1400) wicca translates Magi:
"Þe paynyms ... cleped þe iij kyngis Magos, þat is to seye wicchis."The glossary translates L. necromantia ("demonum invocatio") with galdre, wiccecræft. The Anglo-Saxon poem called "Men's Crafts" has wiccræft, which appears to be the same word, and by its context means "skill with horses." In a c.1250 translation of "Exodus," witches is used of the Egyptian midwives who save the newborn sons of the Hebrews: "Ðe wicches hidden hem for-ðan, Biforen pharaun nolden he ben." Witch in ref. to a man survived in dialect into 20c., but the fem. form was so dominant by 1601 that men-witches or he-witch began to be used. Extended sense of "young woman or girl of bewitching aspect or manners" is first recorded 1740. Witch doctor is from 1718; applied to African magicians from 1836.
"At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, 'she is a witch,' or 'she is a wise woman.' " [Reginald Scot, "The Discoverie of Witchcraft," 1584]
Occurs only in Ex. 22:18, as the rendering of _mekhashshepheh_, the feminine form of the word, meaning "enchantress" (R.V., "sorceress"), and in Deut. 18:10, as the rendering of _mekhashshepheth_, the masculine form of the word, meaning "enchanter."