From Middle English warloghe, warlowe, warloȝe, from Old English wǣrloga (“traitor, deceiver”, literally “truce-breaker”), from wǣr (“covenant, truce, pact, promise”) (from Proto-Indo-European *wēr- (“true”); compare veritable) + loga (“liar”), from Proto-Germanic *lugô, related to Old English lēogan (whence English lie). The hard -ck ending originated in Scottish and Northern English, like the sense "male magic-user" (from the notion that such men were in league with the Devil). Cognate with Old High German wārlogo (“truce-breaker, traitor”).
A few writers have alternatively proposed that the word derives from Old Norse varðlokkur (“caller of spirits”), but as the OED notes, this is implausible due to the extreme rarity of the Norse word and the fact that forms without hard -k, which are consistent with the Old English etymology (“traitor”), are attested earlier than forms with -k (and forms with -ð- are not attested).
warlock (plural warlocks)
- A male magic-user; a male witch.
- Because of its etymology, the term is not much used by male witches themselves, who often identify as witches instead.
- ^ M. Loewe, C. Blacker, Oracles and Divination (1981), page 130: "'Vardlokkur'...is related to the Scots dialect word 'warlock', wizard, and the meaning is thought to relate to the power to shut in or enclose"
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary, (online) 2nd Edition (1989): "ON. varðlokkur wk. fem. pl. ... incantation, suggested already in Johnson, is too rare (? occurring once), with regard to the late appearance of the -k forms, to be considered."
- ^ Nigel Pennick, Pagan Magic of the Northern Tradition (2015, ISBN 1620553902): "The northern English and Scots word warlock, meaning a cunning man or practitioner of spellcraft, is rarely used today except pejoratively. Because dictionaries have given it meanings such as “liar” and “deceiver,” the word has fallen from use."
- ^ Carl McColman, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Paganism (2002, ISBN 002864266X), page 51: 'Words ike "wizard" or "magician" aren't used and especially not "warlock."'
- ^ Hans Holzer, The New Pagans (1972), page 60: "Those who do not know about Wicca, especially the uninformed press, like to refer to a male follower of witchcraft as a warlock. While the term "warlock" is certainly a valid description of a person engaged in pagan rituals, it is never used in Wicca, or 'white' witchcraft."