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[gob-lin] /ˈgɒb lɪn/
a grotesque sprite or elf that is mischievous or malicious toward people.
Origin of goblin
1300-50; Middle English gobelin < Middle French < Middle High German kobold goblin; see kobold
Goblin, gnome, gremlin refer to supernatural beings thought to be malevolent to people. Goblins are demons of any size, usually in human or animal form, that are supposed to assail, afflict, and even torture human beings: “Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd, …” (Shak. Hamlet I, iv ). Gnomes are small beings, like ugly little old men, who live in the earth, guarding mines, treasures, etc. They are mysteriously malevolent and terrify human beings by causing dreadful mishaps to occur. Gremlins are thought to disrupt machinery and are active in modern folklore. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for goblins
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • To me they sounded suspiciously like the goblins in my goblin book.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
  • He invoked the spirit of his mother; he brought together an assembly of elves and goblins.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • I was never the victim of fear of goblins and ghosts because I was never taught them.

    Adventures in the Arts Marsden Hartley
  • But when the goblins arrived they looked at the table with dismay.

    Sandman's Goodnight Stories

    Abbie Phillips Walker
  • The Fairies and the goblins hurried to the kitchen in the hollow, but it was empty.

    Sandman's Goodnight Stories

    Abbie Phillips Walker
British Dictionary definitions for goblins


(in folklore) a small grotesque supernatural creature, regarded as malevolent towards human beings
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from Middle High German kobolt; compare cobalt
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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Word Origin and History for goblins



early 14c., "a devil, incubus, fairy," from Old French gobelin (12c., as Medieval Latin Gobelinus, the name of a spirit haunting the region of Evreux, in chronicle of Ordericus Vitalis), of uncertain origin, perhaps related to German kobold (see cobalt), or from Medieval Latin cabalus, from Greek kobalos "rogue, knave," kobaloi "wicked spirits invoked by rogues," of unknown origin. Another suggestion is that it is a diminutive of the proper name Gobel.

Though French gobelin was not recorded until almost 250 years after appearance of the English term, it is mentioned in the Medieval Latin text of the 1100's, and few people who believed in folk magic used Medieval Latin. [Barnhart]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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