hag

hag (n.) early 13c., "ugly old woman," probably a shortening of O.E. hægtesse "witch, fury" (on assumption that -tesse was a suffix), from P.Gmc. *hagatusjon-, of unknown origin. Similar shortening produced Du. heks, Ger. Hexe "witch" from cognate M.Du. haghetisse, O.H.G. hagzusa. First element is probably cognate with O.E. haga "enclosure, portion of woodland marked off for cutting" (see HEDGE (Cf. hedge)). O.N. had tunriða and O.H.G. zunritha, both lit. "hedge-rider," used of witches and ghosts. Second element may be connected with Norw. tysja "fairy; crippled woman," Gaul. dusius "demon," Lith. dvasia "spirit," from PIE *dhewes- "to fly about, smoke, be scattered, vanish."
One of the magic words for which there is no male form, suggesting its original meaning was close to "diviner, soothsayer," which were always female in northern European paganism, and hægtesse seem at one time to have meant "woman of prophetic and oracular powers" (Ælfric uses it to render the Greek "pythoness," the voice of the Delphic oracle), a figure greatly feared and respected. Later, the word was used of village wise women.
Haga is also the haw- in HAWTHORN (Cf. hawthorn), which is an important tree in northern European pagan religion. There may be several layers of folk etymology here. Confusion or blending with heathenish is suggested by Middle English hæhtis, hægtis "hag, witch, fury, etc.," and haetnesse "goddess," used of Minerva and Diana.
If the hægtesse was once a powerful supernatural woman (in Norse it is an alternative word for Norn, any of the three weird sisters, the equivalent of the Fates), it might originally have carried the hawthorn sense. Later, when the pagan magic was reduced to local scatterings, it might have had the sense of "hedge-rider," or "she who straddles the hedge," because the hedge was the boundary between the "civilized" world of the village and the wild world beyond. The hægtesse would have a foot in each reality. Even later, when it meant the local healer and root collector, living in the open and moving from village to village, it may have had the mildly pejorative sense of hedge- in Middle English (hedge-priest, etc.), suggesting an itinerant sleeping under bushes, perhaps. The same word could have contained all three senses before being reduced to its modern one.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • hag — hag·berry; hag·don; hag·ga·da; hag·ga·dist; hag·gis; hag·gish; hag·gler; hag·gy; hag·i·oc·ra·cy; hag·i·og·ra·pher; hag·i·o·graph·ic; hag·i·og·ra·phist; hag·i·og·rap·hy; hag·i·ol·a·ter; hag·i·ol·a·trous; hag·i·ol·a·try; hag·i·o·lith;… …   English syllables

  • Hag — Hag: Die germ. Wortgruppe mhd. hac »Dorngesträuch, Gebüsch; Umzäunung, Gehege; ‹umfriedeter› Wald; ‹umfriedeter› Ort«, ahd. hag »Einhegung; Stadt«, daneben asächs. hago »Weideplatz«, engl. haw »Gehege; Hof«, schwed. hage »Gehege; Weide; Wäldchen …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • Hag — 〈m. 1; schweiz.〉 1. eingehegtes Grundstück, umgrenztes Waldgrundstück 2. Hain, kleiner Wald, Gesträuch, Buschwerk (RosenHag) [<ahd. hac, hages „Umzäunung, umzäuntes Grundstück, Hain, Dorngesträuch“; zu idg. *kagh „Flechtwerk, Zaun, mit einem… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Hag — (h[a^]g), n. [OE. hagge, hegge, witch, hag, AS. h[ae]gtesse; akin to OHG. hagazussa, G. hexe, D. heks, Dan. hex, Sw. h[ a]xa. The first part of the word is prob. the same as E. haw, hedge, and the orig. meaning was perh., wood woman, wild woman.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • hag — hag1 [hag] n. [ME hagge, a witch, hag, contr. < OE hægtes < haga, hedge, akin to Ger hexe (OHG hagazussa): sense comparable to ON tūnritha, lit., hedge rider, hence witch] 1. Obs. a female demon or evil spirit 2. a witch; enchantress 3. an… …   English World dictionary

  • Hag|ga|i — «HAG ee y, HAG y», noun. 1. a Hebrew prophet who wrote about 520 B.C. and who urged, with Zechariah, the rebuilding of the temple. 2. a book of the Old Testament attributed to him, placed among the Minor Prophets. Abbr: Hag …   Useful english dictionary

  • Hag — Hag, n. [Scot. hag to cut; cf. E. hack.] 1. A small wood, or part of a wood or copse, which is marked off or inclosed for felling, or which has been felled. [1913 Webster] This said, he led me over hoults and hags; Through thorns and bushes scant …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • HAG — is a Swiss maker of model trains in HO scale. These are high quality trains made of die cast metal with reliable mechanisms. This is the primary manufacturer of Swiss model trains, but they are more expensive than most brands of HO trains,… …   Wikipedia

  • Hag — Sm erw. obs. (8. Jh.), mhd. hac m./n., ahd. hag, hac Stammwort. Sonst mit n Flexion as. hago, hag m.( ?), ae. haga, anord. hagi aus g. * haga /ōn m. Umzäunung (umzäuntes Grundstück, Weideplatz, Hecke) . Außergermanisch vergleicht sich l.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Hag — Hag, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Hagged} (h[a^]gd); p. pr. & vb. n. {Hagging}.] To harass; to weary with vexation. [1913 Webster] How are superstitious men hagged out of their wits with the fancy of omens. L Estrange. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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