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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Anbetung der Könige (Adoration of the Magi, 1522).[n 1] It depicts the Magi (right; sense 1) presenting gifts to the infant Jesus while he is carried by his mother Mary.
A chart of the Orion constellation. The three stars indicated by an arrow are the Magi (sense 2), or Orion’s Belt.
An enhanced photograph of the Magi (sense 2).

From magi (plural of magus (magician; (derogatory) conjurer or sorcerer, especially one who is a charlatan or trickster; Zoroastrian priest)), from Middle English mages, magi or Magi, magy or Magy (men possessing occult knowledge; astrologers, philosophers, sorcerers),[1] from Latin magī, from magus (magician; (derogatory) conjurer or sorcerer, especially one who is a charlatan or trickster; Zoroastrian priest) + (suffix forming nominative or vocative masculine plurals). Magus is derived from Ancient Greek μάγος (mágos), Μάγος (Mágos, magician; (derogatory) conjurer, sorcerer; Zoroastrian priest) (plural μᾰ́γοι (mágoi), Μᾰ́γοι (Mágoi)), from Old Iranian (compare Avestan 𐬨𐬊𐬕𐬎 (moġu), Old Median and Old Persian 𐎶𐎦𐎢𐏁 (m-gu-u-š /⁠maγu-⁠/, title of a person?)),[2] possibly from Proto-Indo-European *megʰ- (to be able, have power; power; sorcerer).


Proper noun[edit]

Magi pl (plural only)

  1. (Christianity) Chiefly preceded by the (three): the wise men who visited and gave gifts to the baby Jesus at the Epiphany (traditionally considered to be three in number and sometimes named Balthazar, Caspar, and Melchior, but the Bible does not state how many there were or their names).
    Synonyms: Three Kings, Three Wise Men, Wise Men
    • 1660, Edmund Warcupp, transl., Italy, in its Original Glory, Ruine and Revival[1], London, →OCLC, page 70:
      A rich Tabernacle where is kept the head of Saint Euſtorgio, and the Tomb of the three Magi, with this inſcription. Sepulchrum Trium Magorum, where lay the Bodies of thoſe Magi, which were brought hither by Saint Euſtorgio, in Anno 330. when he came laſt out of the Eaſt, but many yeers after, this City being deſtroyed by Fedrick Barbaroſſa, in Anno 1163.
  2. (astronomy, by extension) The three bright stars (Alnitak (ζ Ori), Alnilam (ε Ori), and Mintaka (δ Ori)) that form Orion's Belt in the Orion constellation.
    Synonyms: Three Kings, Three Sisters

Derived terms[edit]




  1. ^ māges, n. plural”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ Compare magus, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2000; magus, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]


Middle English[edit]


Magi pl (plural only)

  1. Alternative form of mages