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demon,supernatural being, generally malevolent in character. In general, the more civilized pagan societies came to consider demons as powerful, supernatural beings who lacked the dignity of gods and who, depending on the circumstance, might be either benevolent or malevolent in their dealings with men. Some demons, like the Greek Pan, were nature spirits; others were guardians of the home or fields or watchers over travelers; still others were spirits of disease and insanity or dream spirits. Some demons were considered to be intermediaries between men and the gods. It was not until the development of late Hebraic and Christian thinking that demons came to represent the unqualified malevolence so common in European demonology of the 16th and 17th cent. This period was a high point in the study of demons, in the speculation on their nature, number, and specific fiendishness. The list compiled in 1589 by a demonologist named Binsfield was considered to be highly authoritative; in it he listed the following major demons and their particular evils: Lucifer (pride), Mammon (avarice), Asmodeus or Ashmodai (lechery), Satan (anger), Beelzebub (gluttony), Leviathan (envy), and Belphegor (sloth). The widespread and ancient belief in demons is still a strong force in many regions of the world today. See spiritismspiritism
belief that the human personality continues to exist after death and can communicate with the living through the agency of a medium or psychic.
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a form of sorcery, or the magical manipulation of nature for self-aggrandizement, or for the benefit or harm of a client. This manipulation often involves the use of spirit-helpers, or familiars.
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See R. H. Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (1959); H. A. Relly, The Devil, Demonology, and Witchcraft (1968); F. Gettings, Dictionary of Demons (1988).
What does it mean when you dream about a demon?
Dreams of demons are not always dreams of evil, or even symbols of torment. Devils can, for example, represent intelligence, cunning (“devilishly clever!”), and even sexuality (“You devil, you”). These traditional representatives of the dark side often symbolize the unconscious, especially one’s shadow self.
At MIT they use "demon" for part of a program and "daemon" for an operating system process.
Demons (parts of programs) are particularly common in AI programs. For example, a knowledge-manipulation program might implement inference rules as demons. Whenever a new piece of knowledge was added, various demons would activate (which demons depends on the particular piece of data) and would create additional pieces of knowledge by applying their respective inference rules to the original piece. These new pieces could in turn activate more demons as the inferences filtered down through chains of logic. Meanwhile, the main program could continue with whatever its primary task was. This is similar to the triggers used in relational databases.
The use of this term may derive from "Maxwell's Demons" - minute beings which can reverse the normal flow of heat from a hot body to a cold body by only allowing fast moving molecules to go from the cold body to the hot one and slow molecules from hot to cold. The solution to this apparent thermodynamic paradox is that the demons would require an external supply of energy to do their work and it is only in the absence of such a supply that heat must necessarily flow from hot to cold.
Walt Bunch believes the term comes from the demons in Oliver Selfridge's paper "Pandemonium", MIT 1958, which was named after the capital of Hell in Milton's "Paradise Lost". Selfridge likened neural cells firing in response to input patterns to the chaos of millions of demons shrieking in Pandemonium.