The word witch is a shortening of the word witchcraft. In the Middle Ages, witch or wiccan was a derogatory term. It derives from the Latin word witchcraft (that’s why witches and wiccans wear black robes) and is derived from the French word wichte (“child, child” + the verb childen).
The word “witch” itself isn’t a racial slur, at least in modern English. Historically, the word “witch” was a derogatory term used in the English language. It was also a term that the Irish and Welsh had used, and it appeared that the word was being used by many other people.
How do historians decide what word to use?
There are several factors that go into a name and a name is certainly something that people like to use in a historical context. But the most essential thing when using a name is to take into consideration how it is typically used and how people use that name. If you start using a name that is negative or derogatory, you can very easily lose the name altogether. If you start using names that are primarily positive and helpful, and that are common among historical figures, then perhaps you will find that those names are still used within the group or have become more accepted.
Historians generally agree that the word “witch” was originally a term of insult used in the Middle Ages for the Jewish people, and not for the rest of Europe that used a form of religion, which is a Jewish religion. Historically, Jewish people, and therefore witch, were also people with a dark complexion.
In some forms of Christianity, the word “witch” was also used as a derogatory term. But in a Protestant society, the term eventually evolved into a term of respect.
What was the difference between the word witch and the word whore in English?
The first definition of witch in common usage was that of the Old High German Witch, meaning a person of “dark nature,” or a wicked person.
The word “witch” itself evolved into using the derogatory term, and the word whore was a term of abuse. This, together with the fact that the Irish or Welsh were called witches, led to an association between “witch” and the Irish, and to the term being used in English as a derogatory term for the Irish, although it is not used anymore.
What is a Protestant? For more information on what it means to be a Protestant, visit the National Geographic website.
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