A daemon is a process which runs in the background and provides some service to an application, on behalf of a user. The term "daemon" is generally used in association with a service running on a unix machine.

Some daemons include web servers, telnetd, crond, and sendmail. (Some might dispute sendmail's status as a daemon, instead calling it a demon.)

See also service.

Contrary to what Webster 1913 thinks (just see what he thinks The Web is...), daemons have little to do with demons, and a lot more to do with gremlins. These were the little people who made things go in Ancient Greece, whereas the gremlins were the little people who made things stop in the RAF. Which is a Bad Thing at any number of hundred feet above ground level.
The name now has more connotations with the computing world, however. But if you're using DOOM as a system administration tool, you get to waste those daemons with a chainsaw, bloodied fist and plasma launcher.
The word daemon is sometimes written dæmon, as they do on the website www.daemonnews.org (a news site for all BSD flavors), for instance.

The letter æ gives a good explanation as to what this letter really means, although the instance we have here has more to do with the fact that English (and Latin) used æ in the old days to mark a diphthong, and not the æ that exists in some of the Nordic languages, namely Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic.

Another good example of æ used as a diphthong is Encyclopædia Britannica, and I've sometimes seen the name Eileen written Æleen. (again, read The letter æ for a good explanation!)

btw, there's also the E2user Ælien. (do I need to tell you where to look now?:)


In Greek mythology and religion, the term daemon was ubiquitous, referring to supernatural agents or intelligences, lower in rank than a god and holding a middle place between gods and humans, such as the Corybantes, Curetes, Dactyls, Satyrs and Sileni. Spirits of forests, rivers, glades and mountains, as well as cities presided over public and family life and were also referred to as daemons. Daemons could be either good or evil, but even good ones were believed to be capable of evil acts if angered by humans.

Daemons could also be ministering spirits, god like beings, souls of dead persons, or familiars (companion or helping spirits that take on animal forms). Gernerally they were considered by the Greeks to be protective and attending spirits much like guardian angels or Plotinus's notion of tutelary spirits. In addition, gods themselves are invoked as daemons in certain texts.

"Belief in daemons dates to ancient Mesopotamia. The Babylonians had an elaborate daemonolgy, in which daemons were organized in armies and hierarchies, and like angels had specific duties."
~ Georg Luck. Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and RomanWorlds.

D. C. Power Lab = D = daemon book

daemon /day'mn/ or /dee'mn/ n.

[from the mythological meaning, later rationalized as the acronym `Disk And Execution MONitor'] A program that is not invoked explicitly, but lies dormant waiting for some condition(s) to occur. The idea is that the perpetrator of the condition need not be aware that a daemon is lurking (though often a program will commit an action only because it knows that it will implicitly invoke a daemon). For example, under ITS, writing a file on the LPT spooler's directory would invoke the spooling daemon, which would then print the file. The advantage is that programs wanting (in this example) files printed need neither compete for access to nor understand any idiosyncrasies of the LPT. They simply enter their implicit requests and let the daemon decide what to do with them. Daemons are usually spawned automatically by the system, and may either live forever or be regenerated at intervals.

Daemon and demon are often used interchangeably, but seem to have distinct connotations. The term `daemon' was introduced to computing by CTSS people (who pronounced it /dee'mon/) and used it to refer to what ITS called a dragon; the prototype was a program called DAEMON that automatically made tape backups of the file system. Although the meaning and the pronunciation have drifted, we think this glossary reflects current (2000) usage.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

In Philip Pullman's wonderful His Dark Materials trilogy, daemons play an important part in the central plot.

They are described by Pullman as an extension of a person's soul - a subconscious, if you may, that has a physical form, appearing as an animal. In the case of children, their daemons would not have a specific animal form but shift shape according to mood, then as they hit puberty, their daemon will change less and gradually assume a specific animal shape.

A couple of things must be said about Pullman's daemons. It is pronounced like the english "demon". Also, people mostly had daemons of opposing sex to theirs. You could talk to your daemon and he too you, but they rarely talked to other people, although they did sometimes. The shape your daemon took upon reaching puberty was of a large consequence - for example, if it decided to turn into a dolphin, or something like that, u were stuck living by the sea.

This brings me to another point concerning daemons which is that you couldn't separate yourself from your daemon - if you distanced yourself it became very very painful to live - like abandoning your heart. There was a deep love between human ad daemon. In death, one's daemon disappears - and in the underworld, it had to be left behind before crossing over to the isle of the dead. It was supremely rude to touch someone else's daemon, for daemons are very private. Although daemons could touch each other.

Another thing is to be said about daemons - they don't all manifest themselves in physical shapes - only people from certain worlds have this feature. although everyone has a daemon - inside. The protagonist of this trilogy comes from a daemon-displaying world - her daemon is called Pantalaimon.

What i found particularly intriguing about these novels was the fact that experiments were being made to sever children from their daemons, and the resulting cut would create energy which would be then utilised. Pullman manages to make you feel so much of what his characters are feeling - that the shock and horror of having one's daemon removed really hits home.

Dae"mon (?), n., Dae*mon"ic (), a.

See Demon, Demonic.


© Webster 1913.

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