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[fuh-mil-yer] /fəˈmɪl yər/
commonly or generally known or seen:
a familiar sight.
well-acquainted; thoroughly conversant:
to be familiar with a subject.
informal; easygoing; unceremonious; unconstrained:
to write in a familiar style.
closely intimate or personal:
a familiar friend; to be on familiar terms.
unduly intimate; too personal; taking liberties; presuming:
The duchess disliked familiar servants.
domesticated; tame.
of or relating to a family or household.
a familiar friend or associate.
Also called familiar spirit. Witchcraft and Demonology. a supernatural spirit or demon, often in the form of an animal, supposed to serve and aid a witch or other individual.
Roman Catholic Church.
  1. an officer of the Inquisition, employed to arrest accused or suspected persons.
  2. a person who belongs to the household of the pope or of a bishop, rendering domestic though not menial service.
Origin of familiar
1300-50; Middle English < Latin familiāris of a household (see family, -ar1); replacing Middle English famulier < Middle French < Latin, as above
Related forms
familiarly, adverb
familiarness, noun
nonfamiliar, adjective
nonfamiliarly, adverb
overfamiliar, adjective
overfamiliarly, adverb
prefamiliar, adjective
prefamiliarly, adverb
quasi-familiar, adjective
quasi-familiarly, adverb
ultrafamiliar, adjective
4. Familiar, confidential, intimate suggest a long association between persons. Familiar means well-acquainted with another person: a familiar friend. Confidential suggests a sense of mutual trust that extends to the sharing of confidences and secrets: a confidential adviser. Intimate suggests close acquaintance or connection, often based on interest, sympathy, or affection: intimate and affectionate letters. 5. forward, bold. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for familiar spirit
Historical Examples
  • Witchcraft which is fellowship by covenant with a familiar spirit to be punished with death.

  • Yes, she liked them, but she thought they were written by a familiar spirit.

    Overlooked Maurice Baring
  • The dead were sometimes raised by those who did not possess a familiar spirit.

    Mysticism and its Results John Delafield
  • The grim “familiar spirit” had triumphed over its evil master.

  • Under one arm she carried her familiar spirit, in the likeness of a black cat, with a single emerald eye.

    The Old-Fashioned Fairy Book Constance Cary Harrison
  • We fear it will be a case of Hamlet without the familiar spirit.

  • Then said Saul to his servants, "Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her."

    The Bible Story Rev. Newton Marshall Hall
  • If any man or woman be a witch (that is, hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit) they shall be put to death.

  • It took me three years of steady work to find that familiar spirit—to discover the exact combination of qualities I required.

    The Air Pirate Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull
  • Always one had been at his elbow—“a familiar spirit out of the ground”—whispering in his ear.

    Northern Lights Gilbert Parker
British Dictionary definitions for familiar spirit


well-known; easily recognized: a familiar figure
frequent or customary: a familiar excuse
(postpositive) foll by with. acquainted
friendly; informal
close; intimate
more intimate than is acceptable; presumptuous
an archaic word for familial
Also called familiar spirit. a supernatural spirit often assuming animal form, supposed to attend and aid a witch, wizard, etc
a person, attached to the household of the pope or a bishop, who renders service in return for support
an officer of the Inquisition who arrested accused persons
a friend or frequent companion
Derived Forms
familiarly, adverb
familiarness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin familiāris domestic, from familiafamily
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for familiar spirit



mid-14c., "intimate, very friendly, on a family footing," from Old French famelier, from Latin familiaris "domestic, of a household;" also "familiar, intimate, friendly," dissimilated from *familialis, from familia (see family). The sense gradually broadened. Of things, from late 15c. The noun meaning "demon, evil spirit that answers one's call" is from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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familiar spirit in the Bible

Sorcerers or necormancers, who professed to call up the dead to answer questions, were said to have a "familiar spirit" (Deut. 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chr. 33:6; Lev. 19:31; 20:6; Isa. 8:19; 29:4). Such a person was called by the Hebrews an _'ob_, which properly means a leathern bottle; for sorcerers were regarded as vessels containing the inspiring demon. This Hebrew word was equivalent to the pytho of the Greeks, and was used to denote both the person and the spirit which possessed him (Lev. 20:27; 1 Sam. 28:8; comp. Acts 16:16). The word "familiar" is from the Latin familiaris, meaning a "household servant," and was intended to express the idea that sorcerers had spirits as their servants ready to obey their commands.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with familiar spirit


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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