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Is this a bad question for this SE?

What is the oldest instance of magical familiars being used by witches in fiction, and also called familiars, or a cognate? For example, an English novel having familiars and calling them 'familiars', or a French novel having familiars, and calling then 'familier' (whatever the plural of that is...)

OR is this better suited for History.SE?

OR should I try Google N-grams or something?

The Online Etymology Dictionary has the first use of Familiar to mean a spirit being from 1580s, but that's for things like the Malleus Maleficarum, I think?


Posted: What is the first instance where Familiars are called Familiars?

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  • we have many such questions on this site, regarding the origins of fictional ideas and tropes. They are on-topic and often get good answers. That doesn't mean everyone thinks they're "good questions" but that's an individual decision. – KutuluMike Jul 15 '15 at 17:47
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    Bad question! Bad! SIT! – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 15 '15 at 17:51
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  1. It's a question of a type fully within the site rules.

    It's answerable, can have a single "correct" answer that can be judged by experts.

  2. Caveat: there may be a minor issue in that your question doesn't clearly define what a "Familiar" is, which can lead to arguments over whether some contrived example or not is a "Familiar" (e.g., Circe's animals in Odyssey); or for that matter, what you consider a "Witch" (I claim a sorceress like Circe is).

    But that's a very easily fixable problem with your question being a bit too vague (not being the wrong type for the site rules). Add definitions of both terms and it's fixed.

  3. Having said that, some site members hate such questions on sight and would downvote it, or even abuse their VTC privilege to try to close it - especially if you don't tighten up the definition giving people an excuse of claiming "subjective".

    Frankly, I think you shouldn't worry about that - and if the question is good (see my caveat above for fixing it a bit), it should generate enough upvotes and VTRO reviews to easily offset that.

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  • Well, doesn't the requirement for familiars to be called 'familiars' counter the problem of defining a familiar? ... A familiar is a familiar if it is called a familiar in the story... – Malady Jul 15 '15 at 19:59
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    @Malandy - Were "familiars" always called "familiars" with identical meaning in English? Are they called that in other languages? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 17 '15 at 0:02
  • Too hard to answer... Sorry, want to sleep... Go look at the the question on Main.SE - scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/95604/… – Malady Jul 17 '15 at 1:36

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