Magi is a transliteration of the Greek magos (μαγος pl. μαγοι), which is a deravative from Old-Persian Magupati. The term is a specific occupational title referring to the Zoroastrian priest-kings of the late Persian Empire.
“The three pagan kings were called Magi not because they were magicians but because of the great science of astrology which was theirs. Those whom the Hebrews called scribes and the Greeks, philosophers, and the Latins, wise men, the Persians called Magi. And the reason that they were called kings is that in those days it was the custom for the philosophers and wise men to be rulers.”
—Ludolph of Saxony (died 1378), De Vita Christi.
Some older translations, such as the King James Version, translated Magi as “Wise Men”. This is an archaic phrase meaning magicians or magi, with connotations of philosophers, scientists, and esteemed personages of a realm. Today the full meaning is forgotten and thus almost all contemporary translations use the Greek-derived term Magi.
In Herodotus the word magoi was held by aristocrats of the Median nation and specifically to Zoroastrian astronomer-priests. Since the passage in Matthew implies that they were observers of the stars, most conclude the intended meaning is “Zoroastrian priests”, the addition “from the East” naturally referring to Persia. Indeed, Wycliffe’s translation of the Gospel reads not “wise men” but “astrologers”; during the fourteenth century, “astrology” encompassed both astrology and astronomy.