witchcraft" (cf. Low Ger. wikken, wicken "to use witchcraft," wikker, wicker "soothsayer"). OED says of uncertain origin. Klein suggests connection with O.E. wigle "divination," and wig, wih "idol." Watkins says the nouns represent a P.Gmc. *wikkjaz "necromancer" (one who wakes the dead), from PIE *weg-yo-, from *weg- "to be strong, be lively." That wicce once had a more specific sense than the later general one of "female magician, sorceress" perhaps is suggested by the presence of other words in O.E. describing more specific kinds of magical craft. In the Laws of Ælfred (c.890), witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman's craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the W. Saxons:
"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]