- devil (n.)
- Old English deofol "evil spirit, a devil, the devil, false god, diabolical person," from Late Latin diabolus (also the source of Italian diavolo, French diable, Spanish diablo; German Teufel is Old High German tiufal, from Latin via Gothic diabaulus).
The Late Latin word is from Ecclesiastical Greek diabolos, in Jewish and Christian use, "Devil, Satan" (scriptural loan-translation of Hebrew satan), in general use "accuser, slanderer," from diaballein "to slander, attack," literally "throw across," from dia- "across, through" + ballein "to throw" (see ballistics). Jerome re-introduced Satan in Latin bibles, and English translators have used both in different measures.
In Vulgate, as in Greek, diabolus and dæmon (see demon) were distinct, but they have merged in English and other Germanic languages.
Playful use for "clever rogue" is from c. 1600. Meaning "sand spout, dust storm" is from 1835. In U.S. place names, the word often represents a native word such as Algonquian manito, more properly "spirit, god." Phrase a devil way (c. 1300) was originally "Hell-ward, to Hell," but by late 14c. as an expression of irritation.
Devil's books "playing cards" is from 1729, but the cited quote says they've been called that "time out of mind" (the four of clubs is the devil's bedposts); devil's coach-horse is from 1840, the large rove-beetle, which is defiant when disturbed. "Talk of the Devil, and he's presently at your elbow" [1660s].