Word Facts: How a Word for Witchcraft and Sorcery Became Pharmacy


Did you know that the word once used to describe witchcraft, sorcery and magic evolved into the word we now use for the place we pick up our medications?

It’s true! You can even find it in the Bible (if you check out the original Greek).

Read on to find the story behind the word: Pharmacy.

How witchcraft, magic and sorcery became pharmacy

Our modern word for pharmacy came from the Greek word, pharmakeia.

It’s pronounced: “Far” + “Ma” + “Kay” + “uh.”

And like many of our words today, it had different meanings depending on the context in which it was used.

Pharmakeia In the Bible

We find this word in the Holy Bible, in particular in Galatians 5.

“idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,”

– Galatians 5:19 (English standard version)

But in the original Greek text, the word used for sorcery was pharmakeia.

And in Greek, pharmakeia could mean magic, sorcery, witchcraft, enchantment, drugs or medication. As previously mentioned, its meaning depended on its use in context.

When the pharmakeia is used various places in the Bible, it has these meanings:

  1. The administering or usage of drugs.
  2. Magic, sorcery, witchcraft; often found in connection with idolatry. (Galatians 5:20; Exodus 7:11, 22; Exodus 8:18; Isaiah 47:9; Revelation 18:23)
  3. Poisoning. (Found in Revelation 9:21)
  4. As a metaphor for the seductions or deceptions of idolatry.

Origin and evolution of pharmacy

From Greek, pharmakeia, meaning “practice of the druggist” > which is based on pharmakon, meaning drug > medieval Latin > Old French, farmacie > late middle English, pharmacy.

Definition of pharmacy

phar·ma·cy | fär-mə-sē | färməsē


  1. The science and/or practice, profession or art of preparing, preserving, compounding and dispensing medicinal drugs.
  2. A dispensary for medicinal drugs; a place where medicines are compounded; drugstore.

Usage of pharmacy

  1. To become a pharmacist, one has to study pharmacyat a university.
  2. These prescription discounts can be used to save money on medications at any pharmacy.