Thursday, October 29, 2009

Defining Demon

St. Anthony tormented by demons
by Martin Schongauer ~1480s

n his book Demon Haunted World Carl Sagan claims that the word "demon" comes from the Greek word for  "knowledge" yet in looking around the internet to verify this I am unable.  Some explanations make more sense than others. I would think it logical that it somehow has a root in common with the word "Deity" say in the Greek word "deiwos" that originally meant a shining or bright light.  But how does this then translate to knowledge?  Does anyone out there know the source Carl Sagan used to claim that the word demon comes from the Greek word for knowledge?

1 comment:

Wes Hagen said...


The idea of demons is as old as religion itself, and the word demon seems to have ancient origins. The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the etymology of the word as Greek daimon, probably from the verb daiesthai meaning "to divide, distribute." The Proto-Indo-European root *deiwos for god, originally an adjective meaning "celestial" or "bright, shining" has retained this meaning in many related Indo-European languages and cultures (Sanskrit deva, Latin deus, German Tiw, Welsh [Duw],]), but also provided another other common word for demon in Avestan daeva.

In modern Greek, daimon (Greek: δαίμων) has the same meaning as the modern English demon. But in Ancient Greek, δαίμων meant "spirit" or "higher self", much like the Latin genius. This should not, however, be confused with the word genie, which is a false friend or false cognate of genius.