I have found limited information on the Old and Middle English etymology of this word, but I have been told that there is also a (perhaps older) Norse origin of the word. Apparently (?) in this origin, the word does not mean "oath breaker". I would appreciate any help on this, English, Norse or otherwise. I will need source references, as they will be required for footnoting. Thanks in advance for any and all help.
Lewis Joplin II
Here's all I could find.

WARLOCK -- "n. wizard, male witch. Before 1400 'warlag,' 'warlau,' 'warlo'; developed from Old English 'waerloga' (before 900) demon, traitor, scoundrel, damned soul, monster; originally, oathbreaker ('waer' covenant, related to 'waer' true + 'loga,' agent noun related to 'leoggan,' to speak falsely, LIE1). The modern spelling warlock is Scottish, first recorded in 1685 (also Scottish 'warlok,' before 1585)." From "The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology: The Origins of American English Words" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, Revised edition of "The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, 1988). Page 870.

Note -- the ae in waerloga and waer are squished together. I have no idea what that means but some of the word types here might know.

WARLOCKS/WITCHES -- "...their male counterparts have been called 'warlocks,' from two Old English words meaning 'oath breaker,' for 'warlocks' were supposed to be demons who had broken with their true faith..." "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1977). Page 601.

Return to the archive