A more interesting and plausible possible origin for the word athame was given by James Baker in his article White Witches, published in the book Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft in 1996. Baker suggested the Old French word attame, meaning ‘to pierce’ or ‘to cut’ as the origin of the term athame.
The precedents for the use of the athame in the Wiccan tradition today probably originate within the grimoire tradition. The most obvious source of inspiration would have been the Key of Solomon, however it is important to keep in mind that the black-handled knife is also found in a number of other grimoires, including The Grimoire of Honorius. An important point to make here is that the images of black handled knives in the Key of Solomon show a single-edged blade, not a double-edged dagger as has become popular in modern times. However The Grimoire of Honorius, which we know was possessed by Gardner, does show a double-edged black-handled knife like a dagger rather than the single-edged type shown in the Key of Solomon.
(The markings on the black-handled knife of Pope Honorius)
Reference was made by a number of authors in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to the grimoire use of black handled knives. A.E. Waite referred to this in his Book of Black Magic, which was first published in 1898, saying:
“That with the black handle, destined to describe the circle and intimidate the spirits, and for performing other similar things…”
Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ https://amzn.to/3Ay4HJr. Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.