witch vs. hag vs. crone

squidink

Senior Member
Venezuela, Spanish
#1
Hi!

It appears that the words 'witch', 'hag' and 'crone' can have similar meanings. To what extent are they exchangeable?

Of the three words, 'witch' is the most widely used. Usually, witches are evil (one good example is the Wicked Witch of the West); but in some stories, such as the Harry Potter series, witches can be good and innocent.

As far as I understand, 'hag' refers to an old witch. It can also be an insult for an old, unpleasant lady.

I'm not very familiar with the word 'crone', but I have found that it's an 'ugly old woman'.

Now, for example, could I call the Wicked Witch of the West a hag or a crone, or would that be somewhat off?
 
  • Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    #2
    Hi!

    It appears that the words 'witch', 'hag' and 'crone' can have similar meanings. To what extent are they exchangeable?

    Of the three words, 'witch' is the most widely used. Usually, witches are evil (one good example is the Wicked Witch of the West); but in some stories, such as the Harry Potter series, witches can be good and innocent.

    As far as I understand, 'hag' refers to an old witch. It can also be an insult for an old, unpleasant lady.

    I'm not very familiar with the word 'crone', but I have found that it's an 'ugly old woman'.

    Now, for example, could I call the Wicked Witch of the West a hag or a crone, or would that be somewhat off?
    No, you can use them interchangeably. 'Hag' comes from a word that may have been a short form of witch in OE. 'Crone' is a word for an old, cantankerous woman that traces back to Latin.
    I tend to hear hag on few occasions, and I don't think I've ever heard crone outside of a book or the rare movie.
    I wouldn't say Wicked Hag of the West, because Wicked Witch of the West is her name.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    #3
    Distinctions are blurred.
    A crone is likely to be "an ugly old woman", not necessarily a hag or a witch.
    A hag may be a crone, but with added malice, or may indeed be a witch.
    A witch may be supposedly in league with the devil and/or otherwise/ able to perform supernatural acts.
    A witch may, on the other hand, be a malevolent or repulsive old woman, a crone :)

    This is more or less the same as squidink has set out in post #1.
    The term you choose depends on the context and the aspects you wish emphasise.
     

    Stumpy457

    Senior Member
    English--American
    #7
    I think when you use witch you FOR CERTAIN imply magical powers, where as the other two don't. So 'Crone of the West' would just be kinda like 'The Old, Ugly, Annoying Woman of the West'. XD
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    #8
    A man might call a vindictive woman a hag, someone to keep well away from, as reflected in the names of folk tunes:
    Old Hag You Have Killed Me
    The Old Hag In The Kiln...
    A hag used to be a spirit creature, not a person, but Shakespeare combined the characteristics of hags and witches in his Scottish play. Since then the two have been synonymous in popular thought.

    Crone tends to be less negative, merely an unattractive old woman, not necessarily good or bad, just a phase of life:
    The Maid, The Mother and The Crone

    In common English a witch tends mean a wicked witch, but many modern Wiccans do not consider themselves wicked and prefer the term White Witch to distance themselves from black magic.

    The words wicca, wicked and witch derive from the Old English form of the Latin 'uictima' = victim. The terms aquired their negative meanings later as Saxon and Canon law developed in line with ancient Roman laws forbidding black magic -Torts
     

    Hermocrates

    Senior Member
    Italian & British English (bilingual)
    #9
    I think when you use witch you FOR CERTAIN imply magical powers, where as the other two don't.
    Usually yes, but not necessarily. As panjandrum said:

    A witch may, on the other hand, be a malevolent or repulsive old woman, a crone :)
    For example, in Waking Ned Devine the main characters frequently refer to the local curmudgeon as "the witch" to emphasise what an unpleasant woman she is. :)

    Rye
     
    English - South England
    #12
    I think that witch implies magic unless it is being used as a term of abuse. Unlike hag or crone, it need not be a term of abuse (or possibly pity).
     
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