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  1. (in folklore) one of a species of diminutive beings, usually described as shriveled little old men, that inhabit the interior of the earth and act as guardians of its treasures; troll.
  2. an expert in monetary or financial affairs; international banker or financier: the gnomes of Zurich.

Origin of gnome1

1705–15; < French < New Latin gnomus, perhaps < Greek gnṓmē; see gnome2
Related formsgnom·ish, adjective


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1. See goblin, sylph.


[nohm, noh-mee]
  1. a short, pithy expression of a general truth; aphorism.

Origin of gnome2

First recorded in 1570–80, gnome is from the Greek word gnṓmē judgment, opinion, purpose
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gnome

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Then poor Bornier, who resembled a Breton gnome, came up to me.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • It was the unlucky boat, the boat that was haunted by the gnome.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • "It's like a fairy-tale, and going into the gnome's hill," fluttered Magsie.

  • The gnome picked up my bag, but was interrupted by my new friend.

    Desert Dust

    Edwin L. Sabin

  • "Well, you wait and see what sort of a bubble I'll blow," replied the Gnome.

British Dictionary definitions for gnome


  1. one of a species of legendary creatures, usually resembling small misshapen old men, said to live in the depths of the earth and guard buried treasure
  2. the statue of a gnome, esp in a garden
  3. a very small or ugly person
  4. facetious, or derogatory an international banker or financier (esp in the phrase gnomes of Zürich)
Derived Formsgnomish, adjective

Word Origin

C18: from French, from New Latin gnomus, coined by Paracelsus, of obscure origin


  1. a short pithy saying or maxim expressing a general truth or principle

Word Origin

C16: from Greek gnōmē, from gignōskein to know
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

Word Origin and History for gnome


"dwarf-like earth-dwelling spirit," 1712, from French gnome, from Modern Latin gnomus, used 16c. in a treatise by Paracelsus, who gave the name pigmaei or gnomi to elemental earth beings, possibly from Greek *genomos "earth-dweller" (cf. thalassonomos "inhabitant of the sea"). A less-likely suggestion is that Paracelsus based it on the homonym that means "intelligence" (preserved in gnomic). Popular in children's literature 19c. as a name for red-capped German and Swiss folklore dwarfs. Garden figurines first imported to England late 1860s from Germany.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper