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Is there a difference between demon and daemon in a religious context?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 24 down vote accepted

The OED writes that daemon is simply an alternate spelling for demon. However, Wikipedia writes that the two are subtly different:

The words daemon and daimon are Latinized spellings of the Greek δαίμων (daimôn), a reference to the daemons of Ancient Greek religion and mythology, Hellenistic religion and philosophy.[1] Daemons are good or benevolent "supernatural beings between mortals and gods, such as inferior divinities and ghosts of dead heroes" (see Plato's Symposium), and differ from the Judeo-Christian usage of demon, a malignant spirit that can seduce, afflict, or possess humans.

In this sense, a demon is solely a bad spirit. Daemons, on the other hand, are good. Note that the terms are from different religious backgrounds, and so they would not "coexist" in the same context. For most people, however, daemon is just a computer term. The only entry in the OED for daemon is:

A program (or part of a program), esp. within a Unix system, which runs in the background without intervention by the user, either continuously or only when automatically activated by a particular event or condition.

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4  
FWIW I've heard "daemon" used in a similar sense in some novels, for instance Philip Pullman. –  Jack V. Aug 25 '11 at 15:04
1  
Daimon is another word for daemon, I think. –  pferor Jan 27 '12 at 13:32

I've only seen the spelling "daemon" in the context of background services running on a computer to accomplish certain tasks without requiring direct user interaction.

"Demon" on the other hand means "evil spirit" to me.

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In Plato's Phaedrus daemon is explained as a kind of good madness like falling in love, ecstacy, inspiration that takes the ego out of itself to a better self. Demon is a bad madness that is always self destructive.

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Quite correct Raku, You need to use the word as they were originally intended without Americanized, British or other pronunciations or colloquialism. Many groups of people try to phase out words to introduce slang or suite themselves and in so doing create a more illiterate society.

Daemon {day-mon}: Is a computer term for a background service and can in some religious myths be a "good demon" (There is also no such thing as a good demon as demon means to take control with evil intent)

Demon {dee-mon}: Derived Greek 'daimôn' Is a term given to an evil spirit that may interact with or manipulate the human spirit and its intent is to change or sway your understanding to what it wants you to do.

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3  
The 'originally intended' transliteration using the Roman alphabet is itself an example of 'American, British or other pronunciations or colloquialism'; the Romans did not mean exactly the same by the word as the Ancient Greeks did, and I dare say the Athenian understanding of the term was not the same as the Syracusan. Language changes. –  TimLymington Dec 27 '13 at 10:26
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Not to mention that losing the a in daemon is another one of those “pronunciations or colloquialisms”, and the computer term in itself most definitely is. -1. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 27 '13 at 11:20

protected by kiamlaluno Mar 25 at 16:51

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