fairy

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English fairye, fairie, from Old French faerie, from fae + -erie, from Vulgar Latin *Fāta (goddess of fate), from Latin fātum (fate). Equivalent to Fate +‎ -ery.

English from ca. 1300, first in the sense of "enchantment, illusion, dream" and later "realm of the fays, fairy-land" or "the inhabitants of fairyland as a collective". The re-interpretation of the term as a countable noun denoting individual inhabitants of fairy-land can be traced to the 1390s, but becomes common only in the 16th century.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

fairy (countable and uncountable, plural fairies)

  1. (uncountable, obsolete) The realm of faerie; enchantment, illusion.
  2. A mythical being with magical powers, known in many sizes and descriptions, although often depicted in modern illustrations only as a small sprite with gauze-like wings, and revered in some modern forms of paganism.
    • 1886, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, H.L. Brækstad, transl., Folk and Fairy Tales, page 51:
      "They used to say there were fairies in that hill, I must tell you!"
  3. An enchantress, or creature of overpowering charm.
  4. (Northern England, US, derogatory, colloquial) A male homosexual, especially one who is effeminate.
    • 1933, Nathanael West, 'Miss Lonelyhearts' [Miss Lonelyhearts is male.]
      The cripple returned the smile and stuck out his hand. Miss Lonelyhearts clasped it, and they stood this way, smiling and holding hands, until Mrs. Doyle reëntered the room.
      "What a sweet pair of fairies you guys are," she said.
      The cripple pulled his hand away and made as though to strike his wife.
  5. A member of two species of hummingbird in the genus Heliothryx.

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Translations[edit]

Adjective[edit]

fairy

  1. Like a fairy; fanciful, whimsical, delicate.