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From the non-word arthame from a French manuscript. Arthame is either from a misreading of handwritten Italian arctrave, which is a variant of architrave (main beam), or from corruptions of the Medieval Latin word artavus (quill-sharpening knife). Artavus was also mistranslated into the non-word artauo in an Italian manuscript. The arthame was conflated with the cortel nero ("black knife") by the author Grillot de Givry in 1931, and that conflation was passed on to Gerald Gardner (the creator of Wicca).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɑːˈθɑː.meɪ/, /əˈθɑː.meɪ/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ɑˈθɑ.meɪ/, /əˈθɑ.meɪ/, /ˈæ.θəˌmeɪ/


athame (plural athames)

  1. A ceremonial pointed knife or dagger, used especially in Wicca and other neopagan traditions and having a black handle with magical symbols on it. [from 20th c.]
    The athame is a black-handled ritual knife—one of the most common distinguishing marks of the Neopagan Witch. Gerald Gardner, in Witchcraft Today, called the athame one of the three most essential tools of the Witch.[1]

Alternative forms[edit]