- Mephistopheles Meph*is*toph"e*les
(m[e^]f*[i^]s*tof"[-e]*l[=e]z) [Written Mephostophilus in
Shakespeare, Fletcher etc., Mephostophilis in Marlowe, but
now generally Mephistopheles, as in Goethe: a made-up name,
like most of the names of the medieval devils, but supposed
by some to be formed (irregularly) from Gr. mh`, not, fw^s
(fwt-), light, and fi`los, loving.]
A familiar spirit mentioned in the old legend of Sir John
Faustus, and a principal agent in Marlowe's play Dr. Faustus
and in Goethe's Faust. In medieval demonology, he was one of
the seven chief devils.
[Century Dictionary 1906]
He is frequently referred to as ``the Devil,'' but it was well understood that he was only a devil. Goethe took only the name and a few circumstances connected with the first appearance of Mephistopheles from the legend: the character, from first to last, is his own creation; and, in his own words, ``on account of the irony and knowledge of the world it displays, is not easily comprehended.'' Although he sometimes slyly used it (though less frequently than Faust) as a mask through which to speak with his own voice, he evidently drew the germ of some characteristics from his early associate, Merck. . . . The original form of this name was Mephostophiles. There has been much discussion in regard to its meaning, but D["u]ntzen's conjecture is probably correct, -- that it was imperfectly formed by some one who knew little Greek, and was intended to signify ``not loving the light.'' --B. Taylor, Notes to Faust. [Century Dictionary 1906]
The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.