Word for "fairy"?

By LenCabral, in 'English to Latin Translation', Mar 12, 2019.

  1. LenCabral Member

    Location:
    Newark DE
    Hi everyone,

    First off, a variant of this post has already been posted 10 years ago, I thought it was time for a re-awakening. :)
    http://latindiscussion.com/forum/la...for-other-mythical-creatures.4686/#post-24463

    I'm trying to translate the word for "fairy," but it seems this concept did not exist in exactly the same way back in the day as it does now. It seems I have a few options.

    fatum / fata - It seems that the modern variant of "fairy" words all descend from "fatum." So one possibility is just to extend the ancient meaning of "fatum" to a more modern context. Another possibility is using the hypothesized word "fata," which is listed here on wikitionary https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fairy. It doesn't have any sources though :(

    numen - Traupman listed "numen" as a possibility for fairy, but I can't actually find any uses of it meaning anything similar to this at all.

    dryas - This is another possibility for "fairy," but it's current meaning seems to mean something much closer to druid.

    faera - The last possibility that I can think of is just to make up a word that is anachronistically back-formed from modern languages.

    This is the fairy for reference - any thoughts you might have would be appreciated! Thanks!
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipe...lda).png/220px-Navi_(The_Legend_of_Zelda).png
  2. LenCabral Member

    Location:
    Newark DE
    Does anyone think "nympha" would work for this? This would obviously be an extension of the classical meaning but might be interpretable.
  3. AoM nulli numeri

    • Civis Illustris
    Yeah, that's probably the best option.
  4. syntaxianus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I like the direction you are taking with nympha, but as fairies are diminutive, you might want to make that nymphula.
  5. syntaxianus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    There is also daemonium:

    A lesser divinity, a little spirit, Manil. 2, 938; Tert. Apol. 32.—
  6. LenCabral Member

    Location:
    Newark DE
    Interesting. Would daemonium have had the negative connotation that demon has in English? I feel like my fairy is more of a "nymphula" than a "daemonium," but I might be biased from my English.

  7. syntaxianus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Well there is now a verbal connection with "demonic," but it doesn't have to be that way. A nymphula would be a a nature spirit and a type of daemonium. Lesser powers operative in the world--it seems to me that is a neutral usage that can go either way. Fairies themselves could be helpful or troublesome, I believe.
  8. Callaina Feles Curiosissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Canada
    Daemonium ultimately derives from Plato's Apology, where Socrates tells the court that he has a daimonium. What exactly this is is not stated explicitly, but it seems to be a type of familiar spirit or "divine sign". It certainly isn't anything resembling a "fairy" as we would think of it.
  9. syntaxianus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Well Socrates's daimonion didn't have to be the one and only model. It is a "little daimon."

    Consider this from the Encyclopedia Britannica (emphasis added):

    Demon, also spelled daemon, Classical Greek daimon, in Greek religion, a supernatural power. In Homer the term is used almost interchangeably with theos for a god. The distinction there is that theos emphasizes the personality of the god, and demon his activity. Hence, the term demon was regularly applied to sudden or unexpected supernatural interventions not due to any particular deity.

    "Sudden or unexpected supernatural interventions not due to any particular deity" -- to say this is certainly nothing resembling "fairy" activity is hard to support, as I see it.

    Agreed there seems to be no truly close synonymous term in Latin for "fairy." But if daemon / daemonium are not the closest, what would be, other than perhaps nymphula?

    Surely medieval Latinity must have come up with something.
  10. LenCabral Member

    Location:
    Newark DE
    Fairy itself seems to be derived from fata, which is still the word in Italian. So it seems the etymological history of the word is not particularly helpful in this case, considering that the Fata are not quite fairies in any sense. It seems that fairies in modern English can have either human or non-human forms, so it seems reasonable to extend nymph into the realm of fairies, even though nympha appears to have typically been used for humanoids.
  11. syntaxianus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Yes, it is just hard to see something as profound as "Fate" being very closely related to something as shimmering and small and ad hoc as "fairies," even if there is some etymological connection.

    I wonder if the best option is not Latinizing for realities not spoken of in classical texts (think of imps, trolls, orcs, leprechauns, gremlins, hobgoblins, bogeymen, elves, dwarves, pixies, and so on). Otherwise, there is generalizing option, using something like "little spirits."
    Last edited by syntaxianus, Mar 19, 2019 at 2:56 PM
  12. LenCabral Member

    Location:
    Newark DE
    The original decision I made was "faera," before I started feeling slightly bad about it. Are you suggesting you think "faera" might be better than "nymphula" for this?
  13. syntaxianus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA

    Yes, I think that, given the unique associations of a particular term, it can be best to Latinize a word from another language, as with daemonium and coffea and thea and algebra. Even the words populus and persona might have come from Etruscan.

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