3

I understand that "Devi" is feminine of "Deva", meaning "heavenly, divine, anything of excellence", and is also one of the terms for a deity in Hinduism" according to Wikipedia and is from Sanskrit.

Meanwhile, "devil derives from the Middle English devel, from the Old English dēofol, that in turn represents an early Germanic borrowing of the Latin diabolus" according to Wikipedia.

Considering they both refer to divine beings, but of opposite ends of the spectrum, is their similarity just coincidence, or was there any attempt by Western people to discredit Eastern religions?

  • 1
    And "Santa" vs "Satan" too... – Gnubie Sep 2 '19 at 17:14
  • 1
    "Santa" is derived from "saint". – Hot Licks Sep 2 '19 at 17:21
  • Valid question. In general, I caution against making too much of similarities in form. For example, Santa and Satan may look similar but have different histories. Even when the meanings are similar, the words may have different origins (see outrage and rage). – TaliesinMerlin Sep 2 '19 at 17:30
5

To answer this question, I start with the related Oxford English Dictionary entries. Devil has a long etymology, of which these two excerpts cut close to the source:

ultimately < Hellenistic Greek διάβολος (in Jewish and Christian use) the Devil, Satan (Septuagint, New Testament), specific use of ancient Greek διάβολος accuser, slanderer, use as noun of διάβολος backbiting ( < δια- dia- prefix1 + -βολος (see peribolos n.), after διαβάλλειν to slander, lit. ‘to throw across’),

...

With reference to the adversary of the Judaeo-Christian God (see sense 1), Hellenistic Greek ὁ διάβολος (with definite article) is used in the Septuagint to translate biblical Hebrew ha-śaṭan , lit. ‘the adversary’ ( < ha- the + śaṭan Satan n.); early Latin versions of these texts (Vetus Latina) usually translate this as diabolus , whereas the Old Testament of the Vulgate uses Satan in most passages (except originally in Psalm 108:6, as it incorporates the Gallican Psalter based on the Septuagint; compare quot. a1382 at sense 1).

The Greek New Testament uses both ὁ διάβολος and ὁ Σατανᾶς ( < Hebrew: see Satanas n.) to denote the adversary of God.

(Hellenistic Greek διάβολος also occasionally appears in biblical contexts in its more literal sense ‘accuser, slanderer’ (Septuagint: Esther; New Testament: Timothy, Titus).)

Deva is relatively simple:

Sanskrit dēva a god, originally ‘a bright or shining one’ < *div- to shine.

So deva is rooted in Sanskrit, and devil in Greek. The Sanskrit root goes back to "to shine"; the Greek root goes back to "to slander." At least so far, there is no connection between the two.

If you look up the Indo-European roots in the American Heritage Dictionary, you find Deva instead grouped with another kind of divinity. Under "dyeu-" we have everything from deus (God) and diva to Deva and words derived from the Latin dies (day): diet, diary, and so on. Devil has another root entirely, "gwelə-." So I'd look there for a starting point on what words are related to Deva and devil.

  • Great summary, thanks! – Gnubie Sep 3 '19 at 18:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.