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Warlock

Warlock n : the official dictionary definition of a warlock is as follows: 

"a male version of a witch, wizard, magician or conjurer." 

According to the Arcade Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto, Arcade Publishing, 1991: "Etymologically, a *warlock* is a 'liar on oath', and hence a 'traitor' or 'deceiver'."

However there is much debate about the real meaning of the word among witches, many of whom find the term that is often applied to a male witch, grossly offensive.

The commonest definition of the word can possibly be traced back to the old English or Scottish word, which many centuries ago, had the meaning "oath breaker" or even "traitor".

Exactly how the word became associated with witches remains one of speculation. The term "oath breaker" may have been applied to witches as they "broke their oaths with the Christian church".  

However some modern witches may apply the term "warlocking" to the ejection of a member from a coven.

An alternative theory about the association of the word warlock with witchcraft, lies somewhere in the late 1500's.  The story goes, that a Scot went against the wishes of his clan to become a Catholic priest. This resulted in his expulsion from his clan.  Also at that time the term warlock was applied to him (which in Gaelic, has the meaning of traitor).  This same priest was subsequently named in a 'witch hunt' and may have perished along with 50 others that were persecuted and burned for being witches, as was the usual punishment for the time.  From that day, his clan branded him a warlock or traitor and never ever spoke his name.

The term has also been used as an "epithet for the 'Devil'."  However the modern idea of an evil sorcerer did not emerge until the 14th century.  The word began as a compound noun formed from:

"woer 'faith, pledge' (a relative of English 'very' and German wahr 'true') and - loga 'liar' (a derivative of 'leogan', the ancestor of modern English 'lie'."

In the North East of England there is another definition, "taken from Old Norse rather than Old English, and comes from 'varth-lokkr' meaning (essentially) 'one who locks (something) in' or 'one who encloses'." As a term of honour, it is used to describe "an exorcist or a magician who traps and disposes of unwanted entities". 

Other definition still abound from the claim that the word refers to a scalplock of hair as a marker; or a witch, male or female who broke the sacred oath, to do evil.

Whatever the meaning, some witches do find the term highly offensive, when incorrectly applied to them.

Source: Information and extracts for this article: The Arcade Dictionary of Word Origins - John Ayto - Arcade Publishing 1991.


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