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[url-king] /ˈɜrlˌkɪŋ/
noun, (in German and Scandinavian mythology)
a spirit or personified natural power that works mischief, especially to children.
Origin of erlking
1790-1800; < German Erlkönig alder (tree) king, J. G. von Herder's mistrans. of Danish ellerkonge, variant of elverkonge king of the elves Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for erlking
Historical Examples
  • Herr Schubert puffed and blew, and "The erlking" pranced and thumped.

    Unfinished Portraits Jennette Lee
  • They found the composer all aglow, reading the “erlking” aloud to himself.

  • But in the boy's brain the erlking has already raised his enticing whisper.

    How to Sing Lilli Lehmann
  • In the heat of fever the boy implores his father to look for the erlking's daughters.

    How to Sing Lilli Lehmann
  • erlking has now completely filled the feverish fancy of the child.

    How to Sing Lilli Lehmann
  • Fearfully he asks his father if he does not hear the erlking's whispered promises.

    How to Sing Lilli Lehmann
  • Angela was left crying over the beauty of "The erlking," the last song rendered.

    The "Genius" Theodore Dreiser
  • The voice of the erlking is a continuous, soft, uninterrupted stream of tone, upon which the whispered words are hung.

    How to Sing Lilli Lehmann
  • erlking invites the boy to play with his daughters, who shall dance with him and rock him and sing to him.

    How to Sing Lilli Lehmann
  • “The erlking” of Schubert is especially hinted at, just as the first movement was prophetic of Beethoven.

    Critical & Historical Essays Edward MacDowell
British Dictionary definitions for erlking


(German myth) a malevolent spirit who carries children off to death
Word Origin
C18: from German Erlkönig, literally: alder king, coined in 1778 by Herder, a mistranslation of Danish ellerkonge king of the elves
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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