See more synonyms for witching on Thesaurus.com
  1. of, characterized by, or suitable for sorcery or black magic: a witching potion.
  2. enchanting; fascinating.

Origin of witching

before 1000; Middle English wicching (noun and adj.), Old English wiccung (noun), derivative of wiccian to practice witchcraft. See witch, -ing1, -ing2
Related formswitch·ing·ly, adverb


  1. a person, now especially a woman, who professes or is supposed to practice magic or sorcery; a sorceress.Compare warlock.
  2. a woman who is supposed to have evil or wicked magical powers: witches in black robes and pointed hats.
  3. an ugly or mean old woman; hag: the old witch who used to own this building.
  4. a person who uses a divining rod; dowser.
verb (used with object)
  1. to bring by or as by witchcraft (often followed by into, to, etc.): She witched him into going.
  2. Archaic. to affect as if by witchcraft; bewitch; charm.
verb (used without object)
  1. to prospect with a divining rod; dowse.
  1. of, relating to, or designed as protection against witches.

Origin of witch

before 900; Middle English wicche, Old English wicce (feminine; compare wicca(masculine) wizard; see wicked)
Related formswitch·hood, nounwitch·like, adjectiveun·der·witch, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for witching

Contemporary Examples of witching

Historical Examples of witching

  • He could not stay any longer, because the witching hour of flute-playing was drawing near.

    A Set of Six

    Joseph Conrad

  • He could not stay longer because the witching hour of flute-playing was drawing near.

    The Point Of Honor

    Joseph Conrad

  • There was a witching grace in their movements, and the Youth watched them intently.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • The witching hour of sunrise is fitted for confidential communications.

  • The Witching Waves is a track that moves up and down in waves.

British Dictionary definitions for witching


  1. relating to or appropriate for witchcraft
  2. rare bewitching
  1. witchcraft; magic
Derived Formswitchingly, adverb


  1. historically, in mythology and fiction, a woman believed to practise magic or sorcery, esp black magic
  2. a practitioner of a Nature-based religion founded on ancient beliefs, which honours both a male and female divine principle and includes the practice of magic, esp healing magic, and divination
  3. informal, derogatory an ugly or wicked woman
  4. a fascinating or enchanting woman
  5. short for water witch
  1. (tr) to cause or change by or as if by witchcraft
  2. a less common word for bewitch
Derived Formswitchlike, adjective

Word Origin for witch

Old English wicca; related to Middle Low German wicken to conjure, Swedish vicka to move to and fro


  1. a flatfish, Pleuronectes (or Glyptocephalus) cynoglossus, of N Atlantic coastal waters, having a narrow greyish-brown body marked with tiny black spots: family Pleuronectidae (plaice, flounders, etc)

Word Origin for witch

C19: perhaps from witch 1, alluding to the appearance of the fish
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

Word Origin and History for witching



Old English wicce "female magician, sorceress," in later use especially "a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts," fem. of Old English wicca "sorcerer, wizard, man who practices witchcraft or magic," from verb wiccian "to practice witchcraft" (cf. Low German wikken, wicken "to use witchcraft," wikker, wicker "soothsayer").

OED says of uncertain origin; Liberman says "None of the proposed etymologies of witch is free from phonetic or semantic difficulties." Klein suggests connection with Old English wigle "divination," and wig, wih "idol." Watkins says the nouns represent a Proto-Germanic *wikkjaz "necromancer" (one who wakes the dead), from PIE *weg-yo-, from *weg- "to be strong, be lively."

That wicce once had a more specific sense than the later general one of "female magician, sorceress" perhaps is suggested by the presence of other words in Old English describing more specific kinds of magical craft. In the Laws of Ælfred (c.890), witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman's craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the W. Saxons:

Ða fæmnan þe gewuniað onfon gealdorcræftigan & scinlæcan & wiccan, ne læt þu ða libban."

The other two words combined with it here are gealdricge, a woman who practices "incantations," and scinlæce "female wizard, woman magician," from a root meaning "phantom, evil spirit." Another word that appears in the Anglo-Saxon laws is lyblæca "wizard, sorcerer," but with suggestions of skill in the use of drugs, because the root of the word is lybb "drug, poison, charm." Lybbestre was a fem. word meaning "sorceress," and lybcorn was the name of a certain medicinal seed (perhaps wild saffron). Weekley notes possible connection to Gothic weihs "holy" and German weihan "consecrate," and writes, "the priests of a suppressed religion naturally become magicians to its successors or opponents." In Anglo-Saxon glossaries, wicca renders Latin augur (c.1100), and wicce stands for "pythoness, divinatricem." In the "Three Kings of Cologne" (c.1400) wicca translates Magi:

Þe paynyms ... cleped þe iij kyngis Magos, þat is to seye wicchis.

The glossary translates Latin necromantia ("demonum invocatio") with galdre, wiccecræft. The Anglo-Saxon poem called "Men's Crafts" has wiccræft, which appears to be the same word, and by its context means "skill with horses." In a c.1250 translation of "Exodus," witches is used of the Egyptian midwives who save the newborn sons of the Hebrews: "Ðe wicches hidden hem for-ðan, Biforen pharaun nolden he ben." Witch in reference to a man survived in dialect into 20c., but the fem. form was so dominant by 1601 that men-witches or he-witch began to be used. Extended sense of "young woman or girl of bewitching aspect or manners" is first recorded 1740. Witch doctor is from 1718; applied to African magicians from 1836.

At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, 'she is a witch,' or 'she is a wise woman.' [Reginald Scot, "The Discoverie of Witchcraft," 1584]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper