June 27, 2013

Case File #013.06.27: OCCULT

Occult was derived from the Latin occultare, meaning “to conceal or hide,” and when it first entered the English lexicon circa 1500, it was used as a verb only and meant “to cover or otherwise shut off from view.” When the adjective form came into use around 1535, it originally meant “secret” or “hidden,” but by the end of the century, it had also taken on the additional senses of “mysterious” and “beyond common knowledge.” It wasn't until the mid-seventeenth century, however, that occult came to be associated with magic and the practice of necromancy, and the noun sense of the word—to wit, the one that is usually preceded by the and defined as “any system of beliefs, practices, or phenomena involving magic, mysticism, or the paranormal”—didn't appear until the early twentieth century, though its synonym occultism was in use as early as 1880.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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