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Fairy Etymology

The words fae and færie came to English from Old French, and originated in the Latin word "Fata" which referred to the three mythological personifications of destiny, the Greek Moirae (Roman Parcae, "sparing ones", or Fatae) who were supposed to appear three nights after a child's birth to determine the course of its life. They were usually described as cold, remorseless old crones or hags (in contrast to the modern, more conventionally beautiful depictions). The Latin word evolved into the modern Italian fata, Catalan and Portuguese fada and Spanish hada, all of which mean fairy. The Old French fée, had the meaning "enchanter." Thus féerie meant a "state of fée" or "a state of enchantment." Fairies are often depicted enchanting humans, casting illusions to alter emotions and perceptions so as to make themselves at times alluring, frightening, or invisible. Modern English inherited the two terms "fae" and "fairy," along with all the associations attached to them.

A similar word, "fey," has historically meant "doomed to die," mostly in Scotland, which tied in with the original meaning of fate. It has now gained the meaning "touched by otherworldly or magical quality; clairvoyant, supernatural."[citation needed] In modern English, the word seems to be conjoining into "fae" as variant spelling. If "fey" derives from "fata," then the word history of the two words is the same.


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