• IPA: /ˈdiː.mən/

demon (plural demons)

  1. An evil supernatural spirit.
    1. An evil spirit resident in or working for Hell; a devil. [from 10th c.]
    2. (now, chiefly, historical) A false god or idol; a Satanic divinity. [from 10th c.]
    3. A very wicked or malevolent person; also i in weakened sense a mischievous person, especially a child. [from 16th c.]
    4. A source (especially personified) of great evil or wickedness; a destructive feeling or character flaw. [from 17th c.]
      The demon of stupidity haunts me whenever I open my mouth.
    5. (in plural) A person's fears or anxieties. [from 19th c.]
      • 2013, The Guardian, 21 January:
        After a short spell on an adult psychiatric ward, she decided to find her own way to deal with her demons.
  2. A neutral supernatural spirit.
    1. A person's inner spirit or genius; a guiding or creative impulse. [from 14th c.]
      • 1616, William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, II.3:
        Oh Anthony […] Thy Dæmon that thy spirit which keepes thee, is Noble, Couragious, high vnmatchable.
      • 2000, Phillip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass:
        “You saw her. And I picked her up,” Lyra said, blushing, because of course it was a gross violation of manners to touch something so private as someone else's dæmon.
    2. (Greek mythology) A tutelary deity or spirit intermediate between the major Olympian gods and mankind, especially a deified hero or the entity which supposedly guided Socrates, telling him what not to do. [from 16th c.]
    3. A spirit not considered to be inherently evil; a (non-Christian) deity or supernatural being. [from 19th c.]
    4. An hypothetical entity with special abilities postulated for the sake of a thought experiment in philosophy or physics.
      • 1874, William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, “Kinetic Theory of the Dissipation of Energy” in Nature 9, 441-444:
        quote en
  3. Someone with great strength, passion or skill for a particular activity, pursuit etc.; an enthusiast. [from 19th c.]
    He’s a demon at the card tables.
  4. (UK, card games) A form of patience (known as Canfield in the US). [from 19th c.]
    • 1924, EM Forster, A Passage to India, Penguin 2005, p. 89:
      ‘That's much the best feeling to have.’ She dealt out the first row of ‘demon’.
  5. Any of various hesperiid butterflies of the genera Notocrypta and Udaspes.
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