Etymology of fairy

The word fairy derives from Middle English faierie (also fayerye, feirie, fairie), a direct borrowing from Old French faerie (Modern French féerie) meaning the land, realm, or characteristic activity (i.e. enchantment) of the legendary people of folklore and romance called (in Old French) faie or fee (Modern French fée).

Faie derived from Late Latin fata (one of the personified Fates, hence a guardian or tutelary spirit, hence a spirit in general); cf. Italian fata, Spanish hada of the same origin.

Joseph Noel Paton – The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania

Fata, although it became a feminine noun in the Romance languages, was originally the neuter plural (“the Fates”) of fatum, past participle of the verb fari to speak, hence “thing spoken, decision, decree” or “prophetic declaration, prediction”, hence “destiny, fate”. It was used as the equivalent of the Greek Μοῖραι Moirai, the personified Fates who determined the course and ending of human life.

To the word faie was added the suffix -erie (Modern English -(e)ry), used to express either a place where something is found (fishery, heronry, nunnery) or a trade or typical activity engaged in by a person (cookery, midwifery, thievery).

The word ‘fairy’ is often translated into dozens of more precise terms from Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton that implies different traditions and characteristics: Ireland: sídheog (unreformed), síóg (reformed), sheogue (anglicized), boctogaí; ScG s’thiche; Manx ferrish; W y tylwyth teg [W, fair family]; Corn. spyrys [Corn., spirit]; Bret. korriganez, boudig.

Out of courtesy the fairy may also be known by a number of euphemisms: Ir. daoine maithe [good people], daoine sídhe, áes sídhe/aos sí [people of the mound], daoine uaisle [the noble people, gentry], bunadh na croc/bunadh na gcnoc [host/stock of the hills], bunadh beag na farraige [wee folk of the sea]; ScG daoine s’th [people of the mound]; Manx ny guillyn beggey [the little boys], ny mooinjer veggey [the little kindred], ny sleih veggey [the little people]; W bendith y mamau [W, mother’s blessings]; Corn. an bobel vyghan [the little people].

Other terms :

Fair Folk is a welsh name, often used in literature and in Scandinavian myths.

Daoine Sidhe: The Irish word for fairy is sheehogue [sidheog], a diminutive of SHEE (like in banshee). Fairies are deenee shee [daoine sidhe] (fairy people).

The Little People: a recent term to characterize the diminutive fairies which probably appears in fairy tales of the Victorian age.

Good Neighbours is from Scotland. It had its origin in a desire to give no unnecessary offense. The `folk’ might be listening, and were pleased when people spoke well of them, and angry when spoken of slightingly. The same feeling made the Irish Celt call them `honest folk’ (Daoine Coire) or `good people’ (Daoine Matha).

The Green Children was used in medieval litterature and versions of it is often used in modern Fantasy litterature.This theme has many variations like Greenies, Greencoaties and others.

The Old People refers as Faerie lived on earthlong before Mankind.

The Silent People (the people of peace, the still folk, or silently-moving people) comes from the Irish and Scottish Gaelic, the sith people. The name sith refers to `peace’ or silence of Airy motion, as contrasted with the stir and noise accompanying the movements and actions of men. The Fairies come and go with noiseless steps, and their thefts or abductions are done silently and unawares to men.

 Elf (ves) means also faerie and derived from the word alfarfrom the Nordic and Teutonic languages which is associated with mountains and water. This clearly illustrates the close relationship between faeries and the earth.

The creatures referred to as fays or fe’es (accent with no separation), fairies and Faeries in Romance languages and English are by no means confined to Western European culture. Under one name or another they are found all over the world; they are more frequently met in Europe and Asia, less frequently met with in America and Africa.

Hundreds of different creatures are regrouped under the umbrella term ‘fairy’.  They can be found on Monstropedia, the ultimate encyclopedia about monsters.