WICKED CONNOTATIONS: THE CONNOTATIONS of ‘WIZARD and ‘WITCH’
Anne de Zwaan Language Acquisition 1 English department Leiden University
The difference in connotations in the word pair ‘witch/wizard’ sure is wicked. In order to provide an accurate understanding of the connotation, this essay will deal with etymology and use of the words throughout history.
First step to take, is comparing definitions that can be found in two dictionaries. One being the ‘Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English’, and the other being the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’.
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English says the following about the word ‘witch’: 1. A woman who is supposed to have magic powers, especially to do bad things. Informal an in insulting word for a woman who is old or unpleasant. Then this is said about the word ‘wizard’: 1. A man who is supposed to have magical powers. 2. Someone who is very good at something: a financial wizard.
Oxford English Dictionary states the following for the word ‘witch’: 1 a. A man who practises witchcraft or magic; a magician, sorcerer, wizard. The second definition is the female one: 2 A female magician, sorceress; in later use esp. a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their co-operation to perform supernatural acts.
There is also a separate definition for the word ‘wizard’: 1. A philosopher, sage: 2. A man who is skilled in occult arts; in later use, a man who practises witchcraft, the male counterpart of witch.
When comparing the definition from the two different dictionaries, it is clear that Longman dictionary gives us a more general definition, while OED provides a more detailed definition. What stands out, is that the word ‘witch’ has a negative connotation to it, while ‘wizard’ is generally seen as a word that evokes positive associations, and is therefore attached to a positive...